Em dashes are punctuation marks and are helpful if a writer wants to highlight a particular word inside a paragraph. These can often be used to signal a disturbance of speech or thinking. Em dashes are simple to find and use.
What is an em dash?
For most word processing systems, an em dash is generated when the consumer types two hyphens. Typically the hyphen keys are located on a computer keyboard beside the zero key.
When we hear the word sprint, most of us can imagine the dash for me. It is markedly longer than the hyphen.
The em dash meaning is to create a significant break in a sentence ‘s structure. We can use these dashes in pairs, as we would use parentheses — that is, to enclose a word, or a phrase, or a clause (as we did here)—or they can be used alone to detach one end of a sentence from its main body.
Dashes are particularly helpful in a long and complicated sentence or in one that includes a lot of commas
When we mistake the em dash with the hyphen we find it nearly difficult to read a phrase. If we had used a hyphen two sentences ago instead of each dash, it would seem as if we ‘d hyphened two pairs of words in the phrase: “tablets-all” and “course-for,” neither of which makes any sense.
To add attention to a paragraph, use an Em Dash:
If a paragraph begins with an separate clause and finishes with a number, a colon between the clause and the number can be included. Using a dash to link the list to the clause is easier when the list arrives first. This helps take three potentially random things and focus them on one idea
Typography of Em dash:
Publications allow different choices of design when making the em sprint. Some use the equivalent of three connected hyphens on each side surrounded by a space (like — this), and some omit the surrounding spaces (like — this). Things include the New York Times website, and several other non-U.S. Using an en dash (or the combination of two hyphens) encircled by spaces (like — this). Some use an en dash (like – this) without spaces. Some, like the web BBC, are utilizing a hyphen accompanied by spaces (like-this). Traditionally, the hyphen is deemed a weak replacement for the slash, but despite the sheer simplicity of typing the hyphen, its use appears to be on the rising instead of the mark, and others find little wrong therein. It’s a matter of editorial preference, in the end.
- In Mac OS X, it is very easy to type an em dash by holding down the option and shifting keys, and typing a hyphen.
- A splash of em can be written in Microsoft Word with ctrl + alt + numeric hyphen. Remember that this is only possible using the numeric keypad hyphen, and not the main button. Word (on a Mac or PC) will automatically render an em dash in between words when two hyphens are typed, unspaced.
A decent rule of thumb is to save em dashes for certain situations where the comma clearly struggles to have a sufficiently powerful separation. If a comma (or a couple of them) does work, use it.
How to put the em dash?
Note that not all the worldwide keyboards are identical. Our writers in the US inform us they don’t have the following software shortcuts. All said, below are instructions for keyboard typing:
- Two hyphens on all PCs and Macs (typed with no room before or after either) will translate to an em dash — the full-length version most of us think about when we hear the phrase “run.”
- We can also select en and em dashes from a menu of symbols not showing up on the keyboard. For example we can pull down the “Insert” window in Microsoft Word, click on “Symbol,” and go to the “normal text” window. The dashes in en and em appear in the bottom row.
- The em dash can be entered on an upgraded keyboard with any software application that treats text as Alt + 0151—that is, keep down the “alternate” key and enter the 0151 numbers using the numeric pad on the right side of the keyboard. You can type the en dash as Alt + 0150
- Mac users do have another choice: Click the move, choice and minus keys at the same time for an em run. Click choice and minus keys to get an en drive.
The em dash uses:
Em dashes put aside, in a paragraph, parenthetical phrases or clauses. Em dashes are similar to commas and parentheses in this use, but subtle differences do exist. For example, when a parenthetical statement involves an internal comma, em dashes are used, which may otherwise sound uncomfortable if commas surrounded it. A better way of talking about the em dash is as a delay or parenthesis with a little more focus than a comma and a little less than parentheses.