What is an Em Dash?

Em Dash

Em dashes are loved by writers. It is quite simple to understand the fact that why writers love em dash. It is versatile tool that can be used for multiple purposes. Once you completely understand the uses of em dashes you will definitely fall in love with them. It is different from other tools and dashes. On a standard keyboard there is no any key that is used to demonstrate or type em dash so the method to type em dash will discussed further. Some latest word processor automatically insert em dash when you type hyphens twice. Em dashes gives stylistic approach to you written content. Many writers used this approach to make their content more attractive and readable. When you read online content the use of em dashes gives clarity and controversial tone that is loved by readers, especially in blogs and articles. Em dashes can be used to add a joke, to navigate an interruption, or for many other purposes that adds flavor to the written content.

What is an Em Dash?

Em dash is a special purpose dash that is used in different situations and used in place of commas, parentheses, quotation marks or colons. Each of them have slightly different meanings and effects. Em dash is best to separate two or more phrases in sentences. It is as much wider as the size of capital letter M. If one sentence have some clauses or phases then em dash is best choice to distinct them form each other. Em dash is used to emphasize a pair of words or clause. It is longest dash longest dash among all. Its name is came from typography that mean that work of setting, placing and printing.

How Do You Type an Em Dash

On a broad digitization project hyphens, double hyphens, minus signs, and em dash are treated same by Google Books and it translate them as “-“. One more difficulty is that em dash, en dash, or hyphen does not appear on standard keyboard. You need to uses special keys to type em dash. So here is a key to type em dash on your PC. All you need to do is to press “Ctrl + Alt + -“keys together on keyboard but if you are using mac then press “Option + Shift + -“to type em dash.

There are multiple situations where em dashes can be used and some of them are described below:

Em dash can be used in place of parentheses

A pair of em dashes can be used replace the pair of parentheses. The parentheses look formal if you use them in between the sentence but em dashes look invasive. If you need to pay attention on parenthetical content then use dashes instead of parentheses. For this purpose you require two dashes one is used before the parenthetical content and the other is used after the parenthetical content. The use of space before or after the dash is depend upon your choice but you need to be consistent throughout the content. Following are some brief examples that shows the uses of parentheses and em dashes:

First Example:

After discovering the errors (total 140 of them), the proof reader immediately recall the writer.

After discovering the errors—total 140 of them—the proof reader immediately recall the writer.

Second Example:

In last few years there has been an increase (though many people were against it), in alternative education practices.

In last few years there has been an increase—though many people were against it — in alternative education practices.

Em dash can be used in place of commas

To increase readability the pair of em dashes can be used instead of commas. These dashes are comparatively better than commas. Basically commas are used when little section of extra information is used in between a sentence. If there are more than commas in a sentence then a reader may get confused but use of em dashes eradicate this confusion and enhance the readability.

First Example:

Five of us (John, Amelia, Jim, Robert, and I), went to the picnic last week.

Five of us—John, Amelia, Jim, Robert, and I—went to the picnic last week.

Second Example:

The question words (how, when, where, what, why, and who), are used to retrieve information in English language.

The question words—how, when, where, what, why, and who—are used to retrieve information in English language.

Em dash can be used in place of colons

If you want to emphasize on the conclusion of your sentence than em dashes can be used in replacement of colons. If a sentence has a clause that ends up with a list than usually colon is used between the clause and the list. But in case if list is used at first then it would be better to use dash to join clause and the list. That would be easier for the reader to understand and proceed.

First Example:

Strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, mango: all are my favorite ice-cream flavors especially in hot summer days.

Strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, mango—all are my favorite ice-cream flavors especially in hot summer days.

Second Example:

Doing this, doing that, going here, going there: there is so much to do but unfortunately I do not have enough time to complete all these task in a single day.

Doing this, doing that, going here, going there—there is so much to do but unfortunately I do not have enough time to complete all these task in a single day.

Em dash can be used for sudden change in thoughts

When you are writing any sentence and want to point out towards an interruption or sudden change then here you can use em dash as well. This technique is mostly preferred for creative writing.

First Example:

Alice could you—no, Jim, do not tough the harsh blade—Alice could you please get me that book from library?

Second Example:

I invite you for dinner at 8:30 am—not 8:29 am or 8:31 am—please come and enjoy the lovely meal.