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"I was yawning all the way through. I prefer action movies – something with a bit more pace."

Before asking here, I read this to put me into context. But still, there it wasn't mentioned this specific use for the En Dash. Nevertheless, my English textbook uses this type of dash a lot.

If I had to guess, I'd say it means a pause when speaking... Because that sentence seems to me like something someone would say, not something they would write.

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  • Another example of En Dash in the textbook is: "The author is very clever with words. I kept laughing out loud (en dash) it was absolutely hilarious!" (The En Dash html code doesn't work in comments, sorry) Dec 8, 2020 at 16:09
  • I’d use an em dash in that example, but punctuation is largely a matter of style, so either choice is valid as long as it’s consistent.
    – StephenS
    Sep 16, 2021 at 15:08

2 Answers 2

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The writer is using this en dash to introduce a parenthetical. The Grammerly article that you've linked says that an em dash should be used for this purpose, so if you're going by that article, the example contains a mistake. In practice, many native speakers/writers don't consider the distinction between (–) and (—) important, which means you may see them used interchangeably.

Some modern typographers, as mentioned in this article, promote the universal use of an en dash in place of an em for aesthetic reasons:

In fact, here at Vela, we don’t use em dashes at all. Because we want the words we write to convey a certain aesthetic, we actually use en dashes in the place of em dashes. Heresy? Eh. I like to think of it as inspired design.

In fact, Robert Bringhurst, author of The Elements of Typographic Style – which is more commonly known as the unofficial bible of the modern typographer – also argues that dashes in text should be made with en dashes rather than em dashes. Why? Because according to Bringhurst, using an en dash achieves the same effect as an em dash without being so visually disruptive.

In casual writing, many people will just use a hyphen when they should use a dash because it has a dedicated key on many keyboards and is easier to type.

The upshot is, don't worry too much about the difference, especially when you're reading. A dash is a dash.

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I am guessing that the author speaks about something he watches on a screen. In this particular case, I think the En Dash simply prepares the reader for the fact that an explanation of what has just been said is following. In other words

I was yawning all the way through. I prefer action movies, and what I mean is something with a bit more pace.

Intuitively I sense in between the lines something like that:

I prefer action movies, which are something with a bit more pace, unlike the boring stuff I have just watched.

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