For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link – http://wp.me/p1x6Ui-4. If you would prefer to dive straight into note 19, then please read on…
According to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, “a dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon and more relaxed than parentheses”. According to the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely, the dash comes in two sizes. Today I’m going to blog about the longer dash which is called the ’em-dash’.
Some rules on the em-dash (the longer dash):
- It usually has a space before and after it (as in examples 1 to 4 below)
- It can be used as a pair in the middle of a sentence – read as a side comment – as in example 1 and this sentence.
- It marks a sentence break (as in example 2)
- It can also be used to add additional thoughts (as in example 3)
- It can be used at the end of a sentence, to indicate an interruption (as in example 5). You may choose not to put a space before the dash here.
(1) I walked over to the sea – well, ran actually – and felt the cold water on my toes.
(2) How many times have I told her to put her clothes away – more than ten times this week I think.
(3) Please return all documents to me by Friday – all signed and dated.
(4) Please can you come over here and help me with–
Could I have used ‘brackets or ‘bracketing commas’ instead of dashes in number 1? Could I have used a comma instead of a dash in examples 2 and 3? Maybe, but ‘Strunk and White’ suggests only using a dash “when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate”. Looking at examples 5 and 6 below, I would say that 6 reads better:
(5) I always thought that I would be good at dancing and singing, so I’m going to join a class – Tommy is going to be my teacher for the six week course.
(6) I always thought that I would be good at dancing and singing, so I’m going to join a class. Tommy is going to be my teacher for the six week course.
My thoughts: I didn’t know that there was so much to learn about dashes. I’ve just checked out the section on ‘The Dash’ in Bernard C Lamb’s book The Queen’s English, where he gives more examples and explains about different length dashes. I think I’ve opened up a good can of worms here; however, so I don’t bombard you with too much information today, I will save that joy for part 2!
Coming up in ‘Dashes in writing (Part 2)’
- The difference between long and short dashes
- How you can create different length dashes using your computer (– —)
- Dashes for spans
- Anything else I discover
Enjoy the rest of the day, wherever you are.
This blog: https://mywritingnotebook.wordpress.com
My other blog: http://sandramadeira.wordpress.com
My website: www.tipsandluxuries.com (includes first chapter)
Twitter: @madeirasandra and @tipsandluxuries
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White The Elements of Style, fiftieth anniversary edition (2009), USA
John Seely The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA