What Are Dashes Used For? (with Examples)
DashesA dash (—) is a punctuation mark with several uses (explained below). A dash should not be confused with a hyphen (-), which is used as a joiner in compound adjectives (e.g., "first-class restaurant") and compound nouns (e.g., "water-bottle").
Dashes are slightly longer than hyphens when handwritten. (As most keyboards do not have a dash readily at hand, some writers use two hyphens (--) to represent a dash, but most just use a hyphen.)
What Are Dashes Used For?Dashes do not have a unique use (i.e., they are used in places where other punctuation marks could be used). Here are the seven ways that dashes are used:
(1) Dashes As Parentheses. Dashes (generally, "em dashes") can be used as parentheses. For example:
- On Saturday, I took the club secretary (Pat Derbyshire) to Skegness.
- On Saturday, I took the club secretary - Pat Derbyshire - to Skegness. (commas could also be used)
- I eventually found it...in my shoe.
- I eventually found it — in my shoe.
- He cannot afford it; the flight alone is too much.
- He cannot afford it — the flight alone is too much.
- She is only interested in one thing: money.
- She is only interested in one thing — money.
- 14 February–24 February
(6) A Dash in Place of a Hyphen in a Compound Adjective with Equal Parts. A dash (generally, an "en dash") can replace a hyphen in a compound adjective with two equal elements. For example:
- The India–Pakistan issue
- The Smith–Jones case
- "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever
they go." — Oscar Wilde