Em, En, and the Hyphen…who knew?
When Professor McCafferty began a discussion about Em vs. En I was completely lost. After doing a bit of research for clarification, I had no idea these two typographic elements even existed. I am in the process of doing the readings, but in the meantime I wanted to post the info I’ve stumbled upon online.
This is what GrammerBook.com had to say:
An en dash, roughly the width of an n, is a little longer than a hyphen. It is used for periods of time when you might otherwise use to.
The years 2001–2003
An en dash is also used in place of a hyphen when combining open compounds.
North Carolina–Virginia border
a high school–college conference
An em dash is the width of an m. Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing. In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.
You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me.
Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.
I pay the bills—she has all the fun.
A semicolon would be used here in formal writing.
I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.
Remember, a colon would be used here in formal writing.