Get your Ems, Ens, and hyphens in a line
Using special characters in body copy can change a lot of what is being communicated to your audience. Designers and writers also use typographic symbols to communicate in a more skillful and dynamic way. They also elevate your designs to a higher typographic level.
Using the proper dash can sometimes be a question mark for every designer or writer. There are three characters that belong to the dash family; Em and en dash, and the most commonly known, hyphen. Em and en dashes are also typographic units of measurements while hyphens are typically punctuation.
Em dash is one of the most versatile forms of punctuation. It can take the place and add a level of complexity to the traditional comma, parenthesis, or colons.
The em dash separates information within a sentence—represents a break in the sentence. This dash can also be used as a pause in thought.
An em dash is the length of the x-height or the width of an uppercase M—if the font size is 12pts, the em dash is 12pt wide.
Em dash examples
- When they discovered what the weather would be like during their trip—raining and thunder—they canceled their trip.
- After months of deliberation, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict—guilty. (found on https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/em-dash.html)
An En dash symbolizes a link to show ranges in number and dates. In addition, this dash can form complex compound adjectives as well.
The en dash is a mid-sized dash—in between the size of an em dash and a hyphen.
En dashes are half the width of the em dash and size of an uppercase N—if the font size is 12pts, the en dash is 6pt wide.
En dash examples
- Opus Design’s favorite show, the Office, aired from 2005–2013.
- The Red Sox won 8–4 against the Dodgers.
- My grandmother gave me a World War II–era clock.
Hyphens are the most commonly used form of dash punctuation.
The hyphen is used to join words or parts of words to make a new meaning. These can, in turn, create compound words as well. Therefore it can be confusing when trying to decide whether to use a hyphen or an en dash. In addition, best practice may be to check a dictionary if you are unsure.
The hyphen is the smallest out of the three dashes—half of the width of an en dash. In regards to the point size, if it is 12pt type, the hyphen would be 3pts wide.
If you are still unsure, send us a note and we’d be happy to chat em dashes, en dashes and hyphens!