Dashes have become a favorite punctuation mark, especially in blog writing. As Lynne Truss states in Eats, Shoots and Leaveswe like to use a dash “because it is so easy to use.”

But what’s the difference between an em dash, en dash, and hyphen? And what about their use in business writing?

Em Dash: Roughly the length of an m, the em dash (—) can be used instead of a comma, semicolon, colon, or parentheses, with the added benefit of adding emphasis, indicating an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.

According to Chicago Style, no space is required between the word and the em dash. If you prefer AP Style, add a space on either side of the dash.

  • Example: Our organization strives to create the best product on the marketbar nonewithout compromising our code of ethics.
  • Example: The division of responsibility for this project will be a bit differentyou will handle all print marketing materials, and I will oversee the website and social media. (A semicolon could also be used here.)

En Dash: Roughly the length of an n, the en dash (–) can be used to replace the word to and the hyphen in a compound.

  • Example: Our division increased profits by 10% from 20092011.
  • Example: The company’s booth at the tri-state area high schoolcollege jobs fair succeeded tremendously.

Regular Hyphens: Hyphens (-) are used to create compound words, such as “mix-up,” or to indicate a minus sign in an equation.

The rules for using an en dash and hyphen are relatively clear-cut. The em dash, on the other hand, varies widely in its use.

Here are 5 Ways to Create an Em Dash and other dashes on your keyboard.

Some writers consider them informal, so they avoid using them in formal or business projects. Other writers don’t see a difference in formality and use em dashes to add variety and interest to their writing. As long as you follow the basic rules, you can use em dashes in a way that highlights your personal style while still retaining a professional tone.

How do you feel about using the em dash in your business writing? Please shoot us a comment!

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