Dashes

Definition

Dashes are punctuation marks used to make an abrupt break in a sentence. They can also take the role of a colon, which can join related thoughts. Dashes can be used to gather up a serious of subjects previously talked about in a sentence. Another function of dashes is to elicit a concluding phrase. A pair of dashes can also be used to explain a term or phrase in a sentence.

When to use it

According to Trimble, we can use dashes in five different situations.
First, dashes can be used to make an abrupt break or pause. When using dashes this way, the author tends to stop and expand more on one thought.

Second, they can be used in the middle of two sentences to link similar thoughts like a bridge. For example, The Internet is beneficial to college students–it provided students with a wide range of resources.

Third, dashes can be used to draw to an conclusion with emphasis. Here is an excellent example from Shanna Alexander.

Fashion is illusion, shimmer, magic, mirage –and money: $62.3 billion a year.

Fourth, they can be used at the end of a sentence to gather up a serious of subjects previously talked about. For instance, difficulties, friends, college–all can enrich our lives.

Lastly, a pair of dashes can play the role of a pair of commas or parentheses that functioned as an explanation, qualification and amplification. Look at this sentence. Tokyo, known as the shopping paradise, is a uniquely popular place among asian girls. This sentence can be also written as: Tokyo–also known as the shopping paradise–is a uniquely popular place among asian girls.

How it can help

What makes dashes really helpful is its appearance—a long line in the middle of a sentence leads the reader’s eye right up. Indeed, it is very eye-catching. With a dash in a sentence, reader’s attention naturally follows the long line as well as author’s thought. Dashes can also play the role of colons and parentheses. And as a bonus, dashes are more eye-catching than them and therefore dashes have an emphasis effect in a sentence.

Correct Usage

Tokyo–also known as the shopping paradise–is a uniquely popular place among asian girls.

Incorrect Usage

Tokyo–also known as the shopping paradise–, is a uniquely popular place among asian girls.

A pair of dashes takes the role of a pair of commas and therefore there is no need to put a comma after dashes.

Tokyo-also known as the shopping paradise-is a uniquely popular place among asian girls.

Hyphens and dashes are completely different punctuation tools. They cannot be replaced by each other.

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