The Mystery of the En Dash


Before I worked in publishing, I didn’t know what the en dash was. It’s a dash the width of a capital letter N, and it’s used in place of a hyphen in open compounds. For example, we’d use one instead of a hyphen in the compound adjective “Pulitzer Prize–winning.” (I don’t think that’s visible here, but it’d be a slightly longer dash.) If you keep your eyes open, you’ll start to notice them in books and magazines.

And in the mock-up business card above. See how the line in “USA Triathlon–certified coach” is longer than the hyphens in my phone number?

What I’m wondering is this: does it make sense at first glance, or is it annoying? That is, does your eye think it’s an em dash (a full dash, the width of a capital letter M), which renders the meaning murky?

More generally, does this look good for a card? I welcome proposals of alternate layouts.

2 Responses to “The Mystery of the En Dash”

  1. joan says:

    I do think the extra long dash is disturbing now that you draw my eye to it. Why can’t you go with the phone number lengthed dash? And shoudl I have put a dash (m or n) between “number” and “lengthed”? I think so.
    Phone number-lengthed.

    the devil is in the details

  2. Chris says:

    I am a big fan of the en dash. But such is my life…