Table of Contents
- Useful tips on when to use a dash in a sentence
- When to apply a dash in writing?
- What are different types?
- Em dashes
- In place of commas
- In place of parentheses
- In place of colons
- Multiple em dashes
- Spaces with them
- How to produce them?
- En dashes
- Indicating the range of number or spans of time
- Denoting connections
- What about hyphens?
When to apply a dash in writing?The rule of thumb is to never apply it where commas are sufficient because you can use it only to indicate a free space or an interruption in your sentence. When to use a dash? If it’s possible to insert parentheses or commas into what you’re planning to say, keep things simple to end up with good marks. If not, feel free to insert it.
What are different types?In English, there are different forms of dashes: en, em, and double hyphens (they all have unique rules and applications). The most common ones are em and en. A simple and effective way to memorize their main difference is to visualize the em type roughly as the length of the letter M and the en type as the length of the letter N. Learn to use them correctly because they differ not only in their length, but they also serve different functions in sentences. How to do that?
Em dashesThey are real savors where other punctuations marks are awkward. Use them if you see multiple commas in parenthetical phrases or to replace parentheses at the end of a certain sentence. Colons are helpful because they enable writers to introduce the clauses that amplify everything that comes before them, and they are more formal. Em dashes are more emphatic. If it’s necessary to create a casual tone or generate strong emotions in your piece of writing, don’t hesitate to apply them. Many transcriptionists and authors replace all kinds of censored, internationally omitted, or unknown letters with em dashes (they appear threesomes or in pairs). They are very versatile punctuation marks. Based on a specific context, they can take the place of colons, parentheses, or commas to achieve different effects in each separate case. Although em dashes are very versatile, it’s advisable to limit their appearances or you’re quite likely to end up with confusion rather than the necessary clarity. Don’t mistake them with the en type or hyphens. That’s because they all serve different purposes in sentences. To use this type correctly, learn basic rules on how to apply:
- In place of parentheses;
- In place of commas;
- In place of colons;
- Spaces with them;
- Multiple em dashes.
In place of commasIf you need to improve the readability of your text, feel free to place a pair of em dashes in place of commas. Keep in mind that they aren’t always more emphatic.
In place of parenthesesUse them to replace a pair of parentheses. The main reason is that they are less formal and more intrusive, and they can help you draw attention to your specific parenthetical content. Omit surrounding punctuation in this case, especially at the end of your sentence. Stick to parentheses to include it more subtly.
In place of colonsEm dashes can replace colons where you need to highlight the conclusion of a particular sentence because they’re less formal.
Multiple em dashesThey’re necessary if you should indicate missing parts of a specific word either internationally omitted or unknown. Be consistent in their use throughout your paper, regardless of the chosen length. Place surrounding punctuation based on standard rules.
Spaces with themTypically, writers use em dashes with no space on either side, and it’s advisable to follow this style in your writing. Many newspapers set them off with a single space on both sides.
How to produce them?There are many efficient and modern word processors that you can use to automatically insert dashes when typing a pair of hyphens. If not, search for the insert symbol command. If you prefer typewriters, a pair of hyphens is the best choice you can make to get to em dashes very closely.
En dashesThey are a bit shorter in length compared to the above-mentioned type, and they both look quite similar. The main difference is in their functions. It’s necessary to use en dashes to do the following:
- Denote connections;
- Indicate the ranges of numbers or spans of time.
Indicating the range of number or spans of timeIn this context, interpret en dashes as meaning either “through” or “to”. This is how they’ll indicate spans of time and ranges of numbers.
Denoting connectionsYou can use en dashes to indicate specific connections between words, connect the terms that are hyphenated, or if you use 2-word phrases as modifiers. They create compound adjectives in this context.
What about hyphens?Many students face a lot of confusion when deciding whether they need to use hyphens or en and em dashes. To links two or more words together, use hyphens. There shouldn’t be any white space between them and the words they connect. You can also apply them in these instances:
- Writing compound words;
- Indicating double-barreled names;
- Indicating the word splitting across lines of the text.