THE DASH [ ]
Punctuation used to denote a sudden change or break in a sentence, e.g. He was gone heaven forbid for an hour and no one knew where he was. Spaces may or may not be added before or after a dash, but the use of spaces must be consistent. Do not combine a dash with a colon, comma, or semicolon.
Apply the following rules when using the dash:
To begin, find out about the purposes for which the dash is used. Click on a link below to read the rules and see examples, take a guided tour by clicking the 'start' button below.
- As a substitute for parentheses or commas in an attempt to clarify meaning or place emphasis, especially for a series within a phrase, e.g. She has this to accomplish today work, study, cook, and household duties as well as take care of her child.
- Before an amplification, definition, explanation, or summary statement, e.g. To be or not to be that is a question we each ask ourselves at night before we turn out the light.
- At the end of an unfinished word or sentence, e.g. The story went on to say that.
- To precede an author's credit for a quotation, e.g. "As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey." Thomas A. Edison
- As a way of setting off something in page design, as for lists, outlines.
- The en dash is used in typeset material and is shorter than the em dash, which is represented in typewritten material by two hyphens. The en dash is used as a replacement for a hyphen when the meaning intended is 'up to and including', e.g. 1987-91, Monday-Saturday.
- A two-em (four-hyphen) dash is used to show missing letters in a word.
- A three-em (six-hyphen) dash is used to show that a word is left out or that an unknown word or number is to be supplied.
- To introduce individual sections of a list. Capitalize the first word following the dash and use periods at the end of each section.