How to use an em dash

When people think about punctuation marks, it generally brings to mind the convenient comma, the imperious colon, or the excessively enthusiastic exclamation mark. The stodgy semicolon and sinuous question mark that get tossed into the mix, but rarely — if ever — will anybody discuss a punctuation mark that always goes ignored, though omnipresent. This is surprising given that this punctuation mark is extremely versatile and a favorite among skilled writers. Adding emphasis to certain words and phrases can add a spice — or a dash, if you like — to a sentence.

The name derives from typography — the task of organizing, arranging, and styles of printing. An em dash is a dash which is an M’s wide.

How to use an em dash?

The hyphen, double hyphen, and minus sign encroach on the em dash territories with rising frequency throughout recent years. Google Books views hyphens, dashes, and em dashes as the same character in the huge digitization process, turning them both into-.” “Neither the en nor the em exists on regular keyboards, rendering them far tougher to use. How to use an em dash is an important question asked by many writers!

So, how do you sort a splash of em? Use the option “+ shift +-” on a mac. Use ‘Alt + Ctrl +-‘ on a PC

Where to bring it to use?

It’s also important that you use one em-dash immediately after the noun to describe the phrase and immediately after the phrase when you set off a sentence using em-dashes. Do not substitute the second em-dash with a comma or a semicolon (as others prefer to do).

Identifying how to use an em-dash, and actually using one in your own writing, is two different things, the latter being more difficult. Here’s a helpful technique to consider when attempting to determine how to include em-dashes or parentheses in your writing: When you feel like adding in a certain paragraph a little extra detail regarding a word and you’re not sure whether the parentheses or em-dash is the way to go, read the paragraph loudly.

When you get to the information between the em-dashes, add a little bit of humph as each word is enunciated. So substitute the em-dashes with parentheses and reread the sentence, without in parentheses applying any significance to the word. In principle, that is how the readers understand the phrase with their own minds — more focus, or “humph,” with the em-dash, and fewer with parentheses.

How is it that you should use em dash?

Joining separate clauses:

Instead of a semicolon the em dash can join two independent clauses. We are using it more frequently these days instead of a semicolon, as it can offer a more relaxed feel and appearance.

It can also replace a colon when the phrases, clauses, or examples are introduced. You may either strengthen the word, or add colour.

Giving stylistic choices:

Many writers adapted the em dash to suit their own goals. Throughout Ulysses James Joyce used the em dash (rather than quotation marks). For much of her poems, Emily Dickinson used em dashes (rather than commas). These uses are chiefly choices of personal style.

Using an Em Dash to talk about Mark Sharp Turns:

Em dashes may also signify an intrusion or a rapid shift of course in a single sentence that a writer was going in. For creative or informal writing this technique is best suited. If you use this in academic writing, you may find yourself unsure.

Highlighting a specific paragraph:

If a sentence begins with a number, a splash of em is best suited to differentiate the item than a colon.

This helps to focus multiple items on one idea, and it is easier for readers to understand as well.

Adding a casual tone:

Em dashes are also used in sentence interruptors, most of them in blogs and digital content. This adds a casual, conversational tone enjoyed by readers , especially when reading online. You can use em dashes to insert a commentary on what is written, add a small joke or witty comment, or add an example to make it more relatable to what is written.

And substitute the uncertain:

There’s another work at the em run. It can replace an unknown element, like a letter or a missing word. Usually two em dashes are the absence of one or more letters in a single word. Three em dashes suggest an whole phrase is absent. Sometimes this style is used in bibliographies where the same author quotes several works. Through transcripts can even indicate a lack of clarification.

Em dashes may render all styles of writing both simple and stylistic.

Let’s say you’re writing, for example, about a young pianist who mastered the works of composers known for their challenging pieces. Perhaps you’d like to show those titles. The em-dash lets you do that. Em dashes are particularly common in informal writing, such as personal emails or blogs, but when you’re writing formally, it’s best to use them sparingly.

Until you’ve learned how to use this simple little device, you’ll wonder how you’ve ever moved along without it.

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