I’ve met precisely two people who know what an en dash is for. One is my very favorite client of all time, who calls me her “precious jewel,” and the other was the first guy I ever met on a dating site. He turned out not to be such a gem. But he did have a British accent.
If you want to look like you really know what you’re doing when designing with type (to at least three people), here’s what you need to know about the en dash.
An en dash is used to replace the word “to” in ranges of years or time.
1981 – 2011
It’s called an en dash because the dash is the width of a lowercase letter n.
Whether or not to put spaces before and after the dash is up for debate.
A designer who does not care about my opinion, or that of the dating-site guy or my client, will use a hyphen instead.
It’s more obvious in some typefaces than others, but,
– this is a hyphen (it’s for—yes—hyphenation)
– this is an en dash (and from now on you will use it proudly)
— this is an em dash (use this one to add a thought—sparingly—in informal writing)