Monday, July 16, 2012

Do You Dash?


Monday Fast Fact – The Dash

Did you know?

A dash is used to show a change or sudden break in a sentence. It is used to show emphasis and should not be used as a frequent replacement for a comma. 

Example: 

Toward the project’s completion – and not due to insufficient employees – some work days ran into overtime. 

A dash is used to introduce a series, followed by an explanatory clause.

Example: 

Chocolate, a cup of tea, and a good book – these are my favorite rainy day treats.

A dash is used to show an interruption, such as in dialogue.

Example:  

Jaden: Helen, why did you –         
Helen: Stop asking questions!       
                
A dash is used to indicate parenthetical text that explains a word or phrase. 

Example: 

The event – a parade to celebrate the holiday – was held every year.


Do you recall lessons on the dash in school? I've been using it more lately, no particular conscious reason. Variety, perhaps. Used sparingly and with care, I think that the dash is an effective addition.

How much does the dash appear in your writing?


Happy Monday,
Karen

P. S. The dash and a host of other grammar and writer-ly tidbits are among the topics discussed in Basic Boot Camp for Writers, my class at the Coffeehouse for Writers. I invite you to check out the selection of great workshops offered every month!

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission of the author, Karen Lange. 

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


36 comments :

  1. I use the dash, but mostly in my non-fiction writing.

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  2. Now I know why my editor made these corrections using dashes. They do make the dialogue flow better.

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  3. I don't think I use dashes very often.

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  4. The dash had not made it's way into much of my writing but your examples here make a good case for it's use. Thanks for the reminder!

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  5. Diane,
    Me too. Don't think it shows up at all in the fiction WIP.

    Stephen,
    I hadn't thought much about it either. May have to give it a try!

    Alex,
    I didn't really until recently. Not sure why, but now I need to be careful I don't overuse them!

    Take care,
    Karen

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  6. Sally,
    You are welcome! I never thought much about it, but it really does have its uses.
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  7. Good post, Karen. I use dashes too often in my writing, and I'm trying to use them more sparingly. I've found that writers often confuse en dashes with em dashes.

    Blessings,
    Jean

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  8. Good review, Karen :-) I do use dashes occasionally. Now with your help I'll be able to tell if I'm using them correctly...

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  9. I love the dash - really love it. (Ha!) I try to be careful not to use it too much.

    I also use "the dash." As in, someone's stealing cookies again or messing around in my new orange purse. Must intervene.

    You probably understand that one, too. :)

    Happy Monday, girl!

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  10. Jean,
    Yes, excellent point! I never heard of the en dash and em dash till I was an adult. Not to be confused of course, with the hyphen! :)

    Kenda,
    I'm always learning something and more than happy to share! I review things often to stay on my toes.

    Rhonda,
    Yes, me too, and have been using it a bit much lately. As for messing with orange purses, well, you know how I feel about that!

    Happy Monday all,
    Karen

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  11. I do use dashes, probably more than I should. Thanks for the lesson.

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  12. Karen I would say that I'm more of a crawler,lol. Richard

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  13. I use the dash a lot in my first drafts and then have to weed them out in future versions. And I'm always double checking the rule book to make sure I'm using them correctly. I don't ever remember learning the rules in school. Thanks for the mini lesson ;)

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  14. What an excellent post, Karen. I use the dash sparingly in my writing, usually showing an interruption in speech. That comes naturally to me since I worked as a court reporter for 25 years and people constantly interrupted each other, so a dash was required. The difference in legal transcripts with a dash is that we put a space before the dash. I have no idea why, but that's the way it's done.

    I have a question re punctuation following a dash. I recently read somewhere that you shouldn't have a comma (or whatever) after a dash. That might be one source's advice. Do you have any input on that?

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  15. I adore - and I do mean adore - the emdash.

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  16. Nancy,
    Me too! You are welcome. :)

    Richard,
    Ha! Well, I don't do that much literal dashing either! :)

    Ruth,
    Yes, for me it depends, they seem to pop up more in certain places than others. I didn't learn about them in school either. Not sure why.

    Lyn,
    Yes, I think I've seen that too, and I wouldn't put a comma after a dash anyway simply because it doesn't look right. All the grammar books I have on hand don't address it, so I'll have to check into that. If I see anything, I will let you know. Good question!

    Lydia,
    Aha, I am beginning to really like it too! :)

    Happy Monday,
    Karen

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  17. Hi Karen -

    Thanks for the lesson. I think the admonition to use the dash sparingly is key. Otherwise, it gets gimmicky and loses its punch.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  18. Karen:

    I admit to using the dash quite a bit! When I notice it showing up in my writing a wee bit too often, I look for ways to break up the sentence. Susan is right when she mentions in the comments that, used excessively, the dash can lose its punch.

    Thanks for the reminder. :-)

    Smooches,
    Janette

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  19. Thanks for these tips, Karen. I use the dash quite frequently in my writing, but now I'm not so sure whether I've used them correctly. :)

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  20. My critique partners have never said too much about my dash usage, so I'm guessing I'm okay with it. I do find many established writers still think of it as a pause. Which is weird because it even looks like a dash to the next word. Great post, Karen.

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  21. Yeah, thanks for reminding about 'Dash' again. It is important and help us to extend our ideas and expand our explanation.

    P,S, When I saw 'DASH', the Dash store of Kardashian family clicked into my brain. loved it.

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  22. Susan,
    Yes, as with anything, "sparingly" is a good rule of thumb. Reminds me of the exclamation point. :)

    Janette,
    Yes, we don't want any of our writing to lose its punch. That is not good. :)

    Linda,
    I have to go back and review my work too. I think I use it more than I'm thinking. :)

    Joylene,
    Yes, I think we have to be careful. Like you said, it can look like it's attached to the next word. Good point. Thanks!

    Yeesi,
    Yes, this is true. I like the way you said that!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  23. I use the dash. I find it helps with emphasis of words and facts. When I attended a writing group, one woman told me to use the long dash--rather than the hyphen.

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  24. Hi Karen - I use the dash but I'm writing colloquially and as you know I use lots of ... too - such is life. I guess if I ever write a memoir or book then I'll have to adapt my writing at that point.

    I think I must go back and do a grammar course sometime - or a writer's course on grammar .. something succinct and punchy - so I don't get bored!

    Cheers Hilary

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  25. Cecelia,
    This is why I use it at times too. And yes, I'd have to say the hyphen if overused. Such a tricky balance we must maintain! :)

    Hilary,
    I think it suits your type of writing, for it adds emphasis and personality. I like the way you write! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  26. Karen,
    I didn't think about it- using dashes, but after reading your examples-I'm going to do it!
    Thanks for this great post.
    Hugs
    Katt

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  27. I probably use dashes in my blog posts more so than any other writing I do. Usually I avoid dashes whenever I can.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  28. I have a tendency to overuse the dash and the ellipses when I'm in the midst of comments or facebook posts. I needed to see those rules again for using the dash - it's been too long since I paid attention to dash rules.

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  29. I find that I've been using the em-dash a lot!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  30. Katt,
    I know, even though it's included briefly in some of my lessons I give them little thought overall. Time to revisit it! :)

    Lee,
    You know, I think I do too. Posts and emails, mostly, I'm thinking.

    Tyrean,
    Me too! Or even for blog posts and emails, like I was telling Lee. On one hand, I don't think it hurts in informal stuff, but I need to take care it doesn't float over to other writing. :)

    Nutschell,
    Me too, perhaps it's something in the summer air? lol Well, you never know!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  31. I use the em dash quite often but do have to go back and try to weed some out. It's my favorite form of punctuation:))

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  32. Terri,
    Me too! I just need to be careful I don't get crazy with it. :)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  33. Hi Karen!

    Thanks for giving us the low down on Monsieur Dash!

    Blessings. :)

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  34. Cheryl,
    You are welcome! Thanks for coming by! :)
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  35. I use the dash far too much - it's one of those addicting bits of punctuation, like semicolons.

    Well, I was trying to find a way to work a semicolon into the above sentence; unfortunately, there just wasn't a way to do it. ;)

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  36. Lauren,
    I think you are right, it can be addicting! And don't get me started on the semicolon...

    Thanks for your input!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!