Re: Using M-dash and N-dash

Subject: Re: Using M-dash and N-dash
From: Jan Henning <henning -at- r-l -dot- de>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2004 10:56:57 +0100

Can you please explain the differences in the use of M-dash and N-dash?

The n-dash is about as wide as an uppercase letter N. It is used:
- as a minus sign: –30 degrees
- to indicate ranges of numbers: You will make $200–300 from this sale.
- to separate parts of sentences: She took the glass – secretly admiring its color – and raised it to her lips.
In the latter use, the n-dash is always surrounded by spaces.

The m-dash is twice a wide as the n-dash, having about the same width as an uppercase letter M. It is used to separate parts of sentences as the n-dash, but always without surrounding spaces: She took the glass—secretly admiring its color—and raised it to her lips.

It is traditional in English to use the m-dash to separate parts of sentences, not the n-dash. This has, however, begun to change over the last decades, so that you may now use either style. I am not aware of any differences between British and American use, but others are probably more qualified to comment on this.

Jan Henning

Jan Henning
Am Schlossberg 14, D-82547 Eurasburg, Germany

Phone: +49 700 0200 0700, Fax: +49 8179 9307-12
E-Mail: henning -at- r-l -dot- de, Web:


Using M-dash and N-dash: From: Abhijit Sinha

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