En dashes, which are shorter than em dashes but longer than hyphens, have two primary uses: (1) create number ranges and intervals and (2) establish equality between compound adjectives.
Use En Dashes in Number Ranges and Intervals
En dashes can be used in number ranges and time intervals as replacements for the words to and through.1
Apartments 1–15 will be fumigated on Friday.
The annual company picnic is this Friday, 3 p.m.–5 p.m., in the courtyard.
The Wars of the Roses spanned 1455–1485.
En dashes also signal incomplete number ranges.2
Larry McMurtry (1936–) and Norman Mailer (1923–2007) have both won a Pulitzer Prize.
If the number range or interval is preceded by the word from, use the word to, through, or another appropriate word instead of an en dash.3
Seinfeld aired on NBC from 1989 to 1998.
Use En Dashes to Connect Equal Compound Adjectives
En dashes can connect compound adjectives in which each adjective is equally important and neither modifies the other.4
Kindergarten parent–teacher conferences begin September 22 at 9:00 a.m.
The Chicago–Nashville flight was postponed because of poor visibility.
This year’s father–daughter dance will have a tropical theme.
Standard keyboards don’t include the en dash, but you can use the Symbol dialog box to create one in Microsoft Word. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + – (Ctrl plus the minus sign). Visit “How to Insert Special Characters in Microsoft Word” for a full tutorial on how to insert all of Word’s special characters including the en dash.
1. Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 751; The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 6.78.
2. The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 6.79.
3. The Chicago Manual of Style, 6.78.
4. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2020), 157.