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The Definition of En Dashes and Their Role in an Academic Text

An en dash can be described as a dash that is medium in size and placed in a sentence to display numbers and dates. Its secondary goal is to help compose complex adjectives, also known as compounds. It is believed that the en dash is used in an academic context to provide clarity of the word flow. Apart from that, en dashes have been known to show a connection between the words and phrases in a sentence.

In academic essays, en dashes are used between the numbers. No spaces are required for en dashes that emphasize the contrast between the words. It also should be added that most dashes are used for research projects, math writing, lab writing, and scientific reports. En dashes are vital for this type of writing since they denote a specific time span, number, or time. The context should be taken into account to know the difference between using em dashes and en dashes in a sentence. En dashes are put in a sentence to indicate page numbers, years, and dates.

  • ✔️ They were told to work 25-30 hours a week for two months.
  • ✔️ By Tuesday, the students should have prepared pages 4-6.
  • ✔️ The years 1925-1926 turned out to be very controversial.
  • ✔️ During the 8th-7th centuries B.C., the revolution started.

Sports commentaries, directions, votes

It is also important to point out that en dashes can be used in sports commentaries, votes, and giving directions. In this case, en dashes have a meaning, similar to the word “to”. Below are some of the examples of the following use of an en dash:

  • ✔️ The National League Beat the Locals 4-2 yesterday.
  • ✔️ A Los Angeles-Tel Aviv flight takes ten and a half hours.
  • ✔️ The team was voting 9-8 to demand a penalty.
  • ✔️ The 8-10 score was not enough to get them moving.

Complex adjective

Another possible use of the en dash is to clarify the parts of a complex adjective. Complex, or compound adjectives are classified as open and closed compounds. Open compound adjectives have a space between the words, while the close compounds have both elements written with a hyphen.

Wrong❌ Right✔️
She is a certified expert in Victorian style interior design. She is a certified expert in Victorian-style interior design.
This movie is very Williams like, you need to watch it. This movie is very Williams-like, you need to watch it.

Using an en dash with compound adjectives is debated to be a stylistic choice rather than grammatical. Whether hyphenated or written separately, complex adjectives are used to clarify the meaning and improve the content. In case the en dash is used, it acts as a substitute for a hyphen.

Connection between words

In academic essays, reports, research projects, and thesis papers, an en dash can be used as a connection between words. It can also showcase specific conflicts, directions, routes, or conjunctions.

Wrong❌ Right✔️
There is a north east airport on the outskirts of the city. There is a north-east airport on the outskirts of the city.
The left right arguments have no beginning and no end. The left-right arguments have no beginning and no end.
The Canberra Auckland flight does not take more than four hours. The Canberra-Auckland flight does not take more than four hours.
The Democrat Republican conflict seems to be escalating. The Democrat-Republican conflict seems to be escalating.

In the sentences above, the en dash is used to indicate certain tensions between the two parties, a competition, or a rivalry. The conflict is implied with an en dash and indicates there are struggles for leadership within the said groups. However, the examples below imply that an en dash can also be used to emphasize partnership and connection:

  • ✔️ The Jones-Lesion book states there is no evidence of this.
  • ✔️ The Huru-Jesinski novel is very open about their history.
  • ✔️ The United States-Australia agreement lasted for a decade.
  • ✔️ Iran-America negotiations were finished last Saturday.

Dates and numbers

The same can be applied to writing dates and numbers in academic papers and essays. En dashes are used to specify a date that has been mentioned previously. The dates need to be used with a dash to avoid confusion:

Wrong❌ Right✔️
May 16 May 18 was the time of the general improvement. May 16-May 18 was the time of the general improvement.
2002 2004 was confirmed to be an era of high fashion. 2002-2004 was confirmed to be an era of high fashion.

Possible mistakes

It should be noted that some sentences do not require the use of an en dash. For instance, an en dash cannot be used when the number or a date is presented with the word “from”. In this case, “from” is always followed by “to”. In other cases, a number can be introduced with the word “between”, which does not require an en dash:

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Kerry Prendergast was the mayor of the city from 2001-2010. Kerry Prendergast was the mayor of the city from 2001 to 2010.
This man can walk between 80-100 miles without stressing. This man can walk between 80 and 100 miles without stressing.

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