Punctuation—The En Dash
Yesterday we covered the em dash and showed how I used it (almost liberally) in my novel Choices Meant for Gods. Today we’ll discuss the en dash, which I didn’t use in my fantasy novel. There really wasn’t any call for it. But writers do have need of this device in everyday practice, so it’s a valid grammar/punctuation point to address.
The proper use of the en dash is in sentences where you’re indicating a stretch in time, something that’s ongoing, or compound word combinations. (Notice that those last two can be covered by regular ol’ hyphens, and the first two concern dates.)
Here are some examples to help make it all clear:
While compiling ideas and scenes for Choices Meant for Gods, 1985–2000, I held onto the dream that the fantasy novel would someday be published.
If I want to forego the use of the en dash, I would write:
I compiled ideas and scenes from 1985 to 2000.
But it would be incorrect to combine the use of the “from/to” construction with the en dash.
And example of an ongoing item would be my career as a fantasy author. We’ll select the arbitrary date of the release of Choices Meant for Gods as my “beginning.”
The fantasy author Sandy Lender (March 27, 2007– ) will speak at Context 20 this Sept. 28-30 on a variety of writing topics.
For compound word constructions, either the en dash or a hyphen can provide clarity for the modifier. This example describes (poorly) the main male character from Choices.
Nigel Taiman is an Arcana City–born Geasa’n who will fight to the death to protect the family under his roof.
Now here’s your technical info about the en dash. First off, the en dash goes by its name because it’s roughly the length of the capital letter N in newspaper print/fonts of years gone by. (Again, I’ve been in this profession since paste-up days when we counted spaces to write headlines. Try it on a deadline.)
Next, to type an en dash, use your number keypad to the far right of your keyboard to make your life easier. First, make sure the Num Lock key has been depressed so the keypad is activated. Then hold down the “alt” key while keying in the code 0150. That will give you the en dash without you having to type any hyphens or other characters. (Notice that it is just one number “different” from the code for the em dash we discussed yesterday.)
(Sandy Lender has been an editor in the magazine publishing industry for fifteen years and is the author of the new fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods, available from www.archebooks.com.)
“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”
Tags: Choices Meant for Gods, Sandy Lender, punctuation, en dash, Context 20, fantasy novel, fantasy author