En Dashes (–) vs. Em Dashes (—) and Compound Adjectives

Updated: Aug 9

En dashes are found in novels along with the em dashes. The en dash is read as “to” or “through”. It can be used to represent a span or range of numbers, dates, or time. Some say to not use en dashes (–) to break up a sentence and say to use as spaced em dashes ( — ) instead. While, the en dash can also be used to report scores or results of contests. They can be used between words to represent conflict, connection, or direction. Finally, when a compound adjective is formed with an element that is itself an open compound or hyphenated compound, some writers replace the customary hyphen with an en dash. This is an aesthetic choice more than anything.


What is a compound adjective?

A compound adjective is formed when two or more adjectives are joined together to modify the same noun. These terms should be hyphenated to avoid confusion or ambiguity.


Compound adjectives – Exceptions

Note that combining an adverb and an adjective does not create a compound adjective. No hyphen is required because it is already clear that the adverb modifies the adjective rather than the subsequent noun. For example:

  1. It was a terribly hot day.

  2. It is an amazingly good idea.

In addition, you should not place a hyphen in a compound adjective if the adjectives are capitalized, such as when they are part of a title.

Examples of compound adjectives

  1. This is a four-foot table.

  2. Daniella is a part-time worker.

  3. This is an all-too-common error.

  4. Beware of the green-eyed monster.

  5. He is a cold-blooded man.

  6. I love this brightly-lit room!

  7. Danny’s dog is well-behaved.

  8. You have to be open-minded about things.

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K Johansson Studios has helped writers and authors for years by providing them with the best services and quality products necessary to help them achieve their dream. From ghost-writing through to book trailer design and animation, we ensure the best outcome for our customers. We pride ourselves on providing quality services at an affordable price. Owned and operated by author Kalverya Johansson and her team, K Johansson Studios, has everything you could ever want or need as a creator and writer.

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