A note on the en dash

Very manuscripts I edit contain dashes, such as en dashes (–), and if they do, they are usually unintentional or used incorrectly. Usually, authors just use the hyphen for everything, including the minus symbol. Only occasionally do I see correctly placed en dashes denoting ranges (e.g. 2–4, September – October). However, en dashes should be used and are very useful also in other cases.

Consider the following array of strings: Bray-Curtis, Shapiro-Wilk, Jiménez-Alfaro, Bose-Einstein, Newton-John. How many persons does it refer to? The answer is eight, the reason being that three of them denote pairs of authors and two are hyphenated double-barrelled surnames. The correct way to represent this typographically is by using the en dash: Bray–Curtis, Shapiro–Wilk, Jiménez-Alfaro, Bose–Einstein, Newton-John. Luckily, inserting en dashes from your keyboard is very simple. It is a shame to use the computer as a typewriter.






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