Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. When referring to year ranges, I have an author who insists on using “during 1940–45.” I’ve seen “from 1940 to 1945” and “between 1940 and 1945” and simply “1940–45,” but other prepositions sound awkward in this context. To me, something happens during an argument, the winter, the ’80s, an era. That is, something that has a beginning and an end but where those time points aren’t explicitly stated. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

A. It’s like you say. The preposition “during” (like “in”) makes sense with a single event or period; it doesn’t quite work with a period expressed in terms of a beginning and an end. You can write “during the war,” but “during 1940 to 1945” is awkward. So change “during 1940–45” to “from 1940 to 1945” or “between 1940 and 1945”; the former emphasizes the whole range, the latter can be less specific. Or, as a last resort, add “the years”: “during the years 1940–45.” See CMOS 6.78 for more examples.