Dashes have become a favorite punctuation mark, especially in blog writing. As Lynne Truss states in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, we like to use a dash “because it is so easy to use.”
But what’s the difference between an em dash and en dash? And what about their use in business writing?
Em Dash: Roughly the length of an m, the em dash (—) can be used in lieu 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 market—bar none—without compromising our code of ethics.
- Example: The division of responsibility for this project will be a bit different—you will handle all print marketing materials and I will oversee the website and social medial. (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 2009–2011.
- Example: The company’s booth at the tri-state area high school–college jobs fair succeeded tremendously.
The rules for using an en dash are fairly clear cut. The em dash, on the other hand, varies widely in its use.
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!