Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes

Q. I know an en dash separates sports scores, representing the word “to” (e.g., “the Lions won 34–6”), but what about win/loss records? In this case one would say, for example, “They ended the season with a record of 10 and 4.” So should this be expressed with an en dash or a hyphen? 10-4 or 10–4?

A. Though it’s not strictly a range, a 10–4 record expresses a comparison, as in “ten wins compared to four losses.” This makes records analogous to scores; a score of 34–6 could be restated as “thirty-four points compared to six.” So use an en dash for both.

Write “win–loss record” with an en dash too. Though the forward slash in your question makes a lot of sense—it suggests alternatives, as in “wins, on the one hand, and losses, on the other”—an en dash in “win–loss” will be consistent with its parallel use in expressions like “10–4.”

Finally, it should be noted that sports scores and records have appeared far more often with hyphens than with en dashes in published sources. That’s what you’ll find in the AP Stylebook, the primary guide for many sports reporters. The Associated Press, like many of the news sources it serves, doesn’t use en dashes. If you’re a fan of the en dash, score one for Chicago over AP.