LawProse Lesson #185: What is an en-dash?

LawProse Lesson #185: What is an en-dash?

What is an en-dash? The en-dash is distinct from the hyphen and the em-dash. Conscientious writers know how to use the en-dash correctly; conscientious readers will appreciate the writer’s effort to effectively distinguish between the marks. Here are the basics. The en-dash (–) is shorter than an em-dash (—) and longer than a hyphen (-). It never takes a space before or after the mark. Its principal use is as an equivalent of to when marking a span or range of dates, page numbers, scores, and the like: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) Oxford American Dictionary 217–19 (1st ed. 1980) $25,000–$100,000 The board voted 6–3 in favor of the amendment. The partner’s 26–7 trial record speaks for itself. Alabama beat Auburn, 28–17, on Saturday. [Use commas to set off a tally or score that doesn’t immediately follow a verb or precede a noun.] One caveat: don’t mix words and the en-dash. The en-dash may stand in for the phrase from . . . to or between . . . and. When the word from or between is written with the en-dash, the construction becomes unparallel—it just doesn’t read quite right. Not this: Thomas Jefferson lived from 1743–1826. But this: Thomas Jefferson lived from 1743 to 1826. Not this: Managers earn between $15.00–$18.00 per hour. But this: Managers earn between $15.00 and $18.00 per hour. Or this: Managers earn $15.00–$18.00 per hour. Another common use for the en-dash is to join or pair two elements of equal weight. For example: Don’t miss the Atlanta–New York flight. Taft–Hartley Act attorney–client privilege respected writer–editor [An en-dash works better than a  slash (which is more disjunctive) to join equal roles held by one person.] Finally, some writers prefer to substitute an en-dash for a hyphen inside a compound construction when one of the elements is itself a compound. But this should generally be a last resort when a more elegant solution isn’t available. It’s most effective with open proper compounds, whose capitalization helps clarify the relationship {post–Civil War years} {Brooklyn Dodgers–related memorabilia}. With lowercase open compounds {bands that were pre–punk rock} and pairs of hyphenated phrasal adjectives {quasi-rulemaking–quasi-judicial body}, it’s usually better to rephrase (or in the second example, use a comma instead). And when joining an affix or single word to a hyphenated compound, use a hyphen, not an en-dash {non-statute-based claims}. This practice of using an en-dash instead of a hyphen in these compound constructions is hardly universal, though. There’s no mad dash to adopt it. Further reading: The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style §§ 1.54–1.65, at 42–50 (3d ed. 2013). Legal Writing in Plain English 181–83 (2d ed. 2013). Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 732–33 (3d ed. 2011). The Chicago Manual of Style §§ 6.75–6.81, at 331–33 (16th ed. 2010). Matthew Butterick, Typography for Lawyers 48–49 (2010). Last week we discussed the differences between em-dashes and parentheses.

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