Uncommon Punctuation

 

Hyphens and Em Dashes

A hyphen is short, like this: -

An em dash is an extra-long hyphen that looks like this:

Hyphens are used to connect compound words (two or more words that act like one). Here are some examples of hyphenated words:

Em dashes, on the other hand, connect two parts of a sentence. They can add parenthetical information—like this—or indicate a pause or break in the sentence like a comma or semicolon. Em dashes can also replace conjunctions to add a bit of punch.

Here are some examples of sentences using em dashes.

How do you insert an em-dash?

Inserting an em dash can be tricky, as the method depends on the kind of keyboard you're using, as well as whether you're writing in Google Docs, Word, or some other program.

To insert an em-dash on a Google Doc, follow these instructions:

  • Go to the Insert menu and pick Special Characters.
  • In the search box, type in em (or draw a long dash).
  • Choose the em dash.

 

 

For Weeble: To insert an em-dash on a Chromebook, follow these instructions:

  • Press CTRL+SHIFT+U. You will see a little underlined “u” on your screen.
  • Type in the code for an em dash: 2014
  • Hit enter.

On my own keyboard, I use this method:

  • Press ALT and hold it down.
  • Type in the code for an em dash: 0151

Do neither of these methods work for you? Then figure it out! Do a Google search for "How do I insert an em dash using [MacBook Air, Microsoft Word, etc.]?"

Not knowing how your own keyboard operates is not a good excuse for using a hyphen (or two hyphens) in place of a proper em dash.

Furthermore, do not put a space before or after your em-dashes! Study these examples:

Wrong Correct

After months of deliberation, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict ⁠— guilty.

After months of deliberation, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict⁠—guilty.

The white sand, the warm water, the sparkling sun ⁠— this is what brought them to Fiji.

The white sand, the warm water, the sparkling sun⁠—this is what brought them to Fiji.

The answer is no! Do not put spaces around your em dashes.

Key Point:

An em dash is not the same as a hyphen. Knowing the difference (and using these punctuation marks properly) is a sure sign that you are no longer a beginning writer.

 

 

 

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.

Quiz