Friday, June 15, 2012

Was That Meant Parenthetically? (Part 2 of 3)

The dash has deposed the parenthetical expression, although they are not the same. The dash signals an added or interrupting thought. The parenthesis (with interesting information) contains less important information while the dash emphasizes the addition.

* Martin finally arrived—disheveled and drunk.

* During her entire life—99 years—Anna never tasted alcohol or ate pork.

* His autobiography—if you choose to glorify it with that word—came out in print in 2011.

* The White Sox have a good chance to win the pennant—if they can beat the Orioles.

The dash seems to have become the most overused mark of punctuation. Use it sparingly and it's effective; use it too often and it makes the writing trite or overwritten.

Consider this example of overuse: After we looked for poor Mitsie—for at least an hour—we found her—shivering in the rain. We carried her into the house—really the back porch—and wrapped her in a thick, woolen blanket—an older one that we could throw away.

The dash interrupts a thought 
for emphasis. I'll use it carefully.

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