Friday, November 16, 2012


(This post comes from Susan Titus Osborn.)

The em dash, a printer's term and often just called the dash, is the most commonly used of the dashes. No sentence should contain more than two dashes. A pair of em dashes sets off an amplifying or explanatory element. Commas, parentheses, or a colon may perform a similar function, but em dashes are often used for emphasis. Don't overuse them.

* The influence of three impressionist artists—Monet, Sisley, and Degas—is obvious in her beautiful portraits.

An em dash may separate a subject, or a series of subjects, from a pronoun that introduces the main clause.

* Broken promises, petty rivalries, and false rumors—such were the obstacles that kept her from advancing in the company.

An em dash, or a pair of em dashes, can indicate a sudden break in thought or an interruption in dialogue.

* Will he—can he—win the race?

* "I don't know what to say," I began softly. "I thought I might—"

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books. You can reach her at,

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