Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Very good, class.

Today's lesson is on the en-dash. The en-dash is the same length as a lowercase 'n', longer than a hyphen and shorter than an em-dash. It is used to hyphenate multi-word phrases.

"non-meringue fetishists" (hyphen) refers to fetishists whose fetish is not meringues.

"non–meringue fetishists" (en-dash) refers to people who are not meringue fetishists.

This is, sadly, a real-world example (not a real–world example), albeit with the fetishized noun changed to protect the writer. I will be editing it out altogether, as I feel one should do with most en-dash phrases, but figured I'd make an object lesson of it first.

The en-dash is also, more commonly and less egregiously, used inclusively between numbers, time periods, monetary amounts, etc. "The gallery is open Mon–Fri, 2–7 p.m., March–October. Admission is $15-20 sliding scale. For more information, see catalog pages 17–22."

These are the only uses that CMS14 allows, but other authorities use it to replace the word "to" in sports scores ("The Yankees beat the Red Sox 78–2"*) and other relationships ("Paris–London trip", "mother–daughter talk") as well as to connect any pair of proper nouns where both modify a following noun but do not modify each other ("McCain–Feingold bill"). I find all of that far too complicated, so I stick with the Chicago rules.

* I acknowledge that this example may be slightly gratuitous, but I couldn't resist.