A weekly grammar tip created by Academic Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, TX 77901
|Effectively Using Dashes in Writing
by Shawn Brett
Dashes are often not used in writing because many people are not sure of how to use them correctly. However, proper use of dashes can add “flavor” to your writing.
There are generally three types of dashes: the em dash, the en dash, and the 3-em dash.
Use an em dash as a super comma to set off parenthetical elements that contain punctuation. Create an em dash by using two hyphens without spaces between the hyphens and no spaces before or after the hyphens. (Microsoft Word will automatically create an em dash in this manner).
Ex: The Ledwik family—Mike, Bob, Janie, Warren, and Melody—moved to Texas this year.
Ex: We could see the house numbers—five, two, six, four—from the street.
Additionally, you can use an em dash when showing abrupt shifts in tone. Usually this is done with dialogue and not in formal academic writing.
Ex: “I wish it would start to—”, the rain immediately began to fall before Glenn could even finish his sentence.
Ex: “Well the other day I was outside and then—hey, where did everybody go?”
Finally, you can use an em dash to emphasize a point. Overuse will take away from the dash’s effectiveness.
Ex: Some of us may not return tomorrow—or ever.
Use an en dash (meaning “through”) between dates, times, and forms of indexing. Create an en dash by holding down the ALT key and typing 0150 on the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard.
Ex: My college years (1999–2004) were filled with a great number of new experiences.
Ex: The ceremony will be from 7:00–10:00 p.m.
Ex: The chart can be found in Table A–13.
Use a 3-em dash (six hyphens) in documents where a person’s name or some other word is being left out—usually for legal reasons or taste. This is not a required punctuation; many times an underscore or some other mark will be used for this purpose.
Ex: ------ and ------ have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Shawn Brett
In addition to our own website, this week we recommend MyEnglishTeacher.net. This website offers general help for ESL/EFL students, as well as tips on writing resumes. There are also weekly lessons that explain a wide range of grammar topics. Visit MyEnglishTeacher.net at http://www.myenglishteacher.net/
|Test Your Knowledge
by Shawn Brett
Test your understanding of dash usage by using them in the following sentences.
1. The three girls, Amy, Mary, and Stephanie, went to the beach on Saturday.
2. Officers – and – were suspended without pay for wrongdoing.
3. They thought the neighbor was a little strange, crazy even.
1. The three girls—Amy, Mary, and Stephanie—went to the beach on Saturday.
2. Officers ------ and ------ were suspended without pay for wrongdoing.
3. They thought the neighbor was a little strange—crazy
Comments about this newsletter should be directed to Summer Leibensperger, firstname.lastname@example.org.