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en dash or colon–which is better?

what is more correct?

the man was annoying–because he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

the man was annoying: because he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

the en dash and colon–as far as i understand–can both be used to give a break in syntax before an explanation. i think they're about the same, just depending on different style guides.

Update:

to the dude who just replied (albeit unnecessarily), an en dash, em dash and hyphen are three forms of punctuation commonly misused in english grammar. they are tricky as hell to figure out, particularly when ellipsis, parenthesis, colons ands semi-colons often interchangeable.

Update 2:

secondly: i'd love to believe the second responder knows what he's talking about. but it's actually "better than," opposed to "better then." kinda takes your opinion off the table, cheers though.

why does english puncuation have to be such a grey area...

5 Answers

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  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Neither of those choices is correct.

    This sentence is the least expressively punctuated:

    > The man was annoying because he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

    This is perfectly correct and could raise no objections.

    This sentence is more expressive, but it may not express what you want it to:

    > The man was annoying because he never stopped talking -- and he quickly got on my nerves.

    This is grammatically correct. It highlights one aspect of the situation (that your nerves were tortured).

    It does seem unnecessarily dramatic for such a simple situation, however, and as an editor, I would delete it.

    The same is true for parentheses:

    > The man was annoying because he never stopped talking (and got on my nerves.)

    This sentence is grammatically okay, but there is no point in making such a big deal out of "got on my nerves." It's actually worse than the sentence using a dash. As an editor, I would delete the parentheses.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The use of a colon is not possible in the sentence you posted, but if the sentence were modified, the colon would come after "because," like this:

    > The man was annoying because: he never stopped talking, he ate noisily, he smoked

    a smelly cigar, and he leered at my sister.

    Alternately:

    > The man was annoying because: he never stopped talking, he ate noisily, he smoked

    a smelly cigar -- and he leered at my sister.

    (There is more justification for the dash in this case.)

    Rather than thinking of a colon as a "break in syntax before an explanation," I think it is far more useful to think of a colon as "introducing a list, including a list that explains."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Here is an alternate sentence using a semicolon:

    > The man was annoying; he never stopped talking and got on my nerves.

    - or -

    The man was annoying because he never stopped talking; he got on my nerves.

    Here the semicolon connects two closely-related sentences more tightly than a period does.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Conclusion: For such an unspectacular sentence, no special punctuation is the best choice:

    > The man was annoying because he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

    Possibly the BEST thing to write is:

    > The man rapidly got on my nerves because he never stopped talking.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Your comment about the interchangeability of those punctuation marks is not terribly true, even though I suppose various sentences might be contrived to illustrate your point.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    An "en dash" is a hyphen. An "em dash" is usually called just a "dash."

    Here is an "en dash" used properly:

    > The fast-acting yeast produced a fine loaf of bread.

    (This mark is indifferently called a "hyphen" or an "en dash.")

    Here is an "em dash" (usually called a "dash") used properly:

    > The first time I saw Paris -- the first of many European cities I have visited -- I was on my honeymoon.

    (Notice that parentheses could have been used here instead.)

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    In the examples you have given I wouldn't use either an en dash or a colon, as you've used "because". If I wanted to use en-dashes or colons, I'd omit "because" and write:

    the man was annoying–he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

    the man was annoying: he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

    Either sentence would be acceptable and the only criterion I would apply is consistency. It's irritating for the reader to see a colon being used in one instance and an en-dash in a duplicate instance. The colon and the dash implicitly conveys the notion of causality, so the conjunction "because" isn't necessary.

    If I wanted to retain "because", I would write instead, using a comma:

    the man was annoying, because he never stopped talking and quickly got on my nerves.

    As for the longer em-dash, I'd keep that for pairs of dashes:

    He sold his house, taking his two children — a son aged five and a daughter aged twelve — to live with his cousin in New Zealand.

    I understand that punctuation type implies a rather bigger break than would be suggested by a colon, but not as great a break as would have been denoted by a full stop.

    Source(s): Studied and taught English as a first and second language. Mother to ngue English.
  • Mary
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    I like Dash better. But Bullet kind of makes you sound more "hood." Actually it reminds me of an enormous fat cat my sister had named Bullet. Anyway Bullet is dead from Feline AIDS. RIP. I really like Geek though. You should keep Geek and make a back up of Dash. And then another of Bullet if you want to. Which you do. Why? Because I said so...that's why.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    en dash is the better then colon

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  • 9 years ago

    what is en ?

    Source(s): ingnorance
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