Writing Thought # 1 – The Em Dash

I have joined a writing group that meets every couple of weeks and I hope that this will get me writing more regularly. While most of the meeting is reserved for unholy slaughter–er, I mean ‘critique’, there is actually a little piece at each meeting called the ‘Writing Thought.’ Last meeting it was my turn to enlighten everyone with my vast literary knowledge. I figured that if my group liked it, then a bigger slice of the world might enjoy a taste.

Writing Thought #1

The Em Dash (also known as: M-Dash, long dash, pause dash, and a myriad of other nicknames writers use) The Em dash is a punctuation mark. While similar in appearance to a hyphen, the Em dash is longer and it is used differently. The em dash is used to set off a word or phrase after an independent clause or to set off words, phrases, or clauses that interrupt a sentence.

The Em Dash and its uses:

  • In place of bulky parenthesis
  • To introduce a separate thought within a sentence
  • Is more visually off-setting than a semi-colon and is not as formal as a colon
  • When cutting off dialogue, the em dash is more abrupt and urgent than an ellipsis
  • Is useful to connect two separate sentences where a semi-colon is not applicable

Warning: Do not confuse the hyphen with the em dash. The affect could be unintentionally tragic or tragically hilarious. “I like that semi—colons are applicable for many occasions!”

Example of Use:

I don’t think anyone could focus on anything when Ryan was on a waffle warpath; the amount of energy he put into eating was very distracting and curious— a whole waffle shouldn’t be able to fit in a little kid’s mouth. Somehow, Ryan managed it. Three times.