Many of us have heard the touching poem, “The Dash,” about living your life to the fullest. I, however, am going to share some tips, not on how to live your life to the fullest, but how to use the actual dash to the fullest.
Three types of dashes will be used in English: the hyphen (most well-known), the en dash (least common), and the em dash (most over used). I shall discuss them according to size, because like many things, with dashes, size does matter (as well as how you use them).
The hyphen is the shortest dash. It looks like this: –
The hyphen serves many purposes. Here are a few examples:
The en dash, so named because it is the width of a capital N looks like this:–
Other than that, you can basically live your entire life without typing an en dash. (To type the en dash: ctrl + numeric hyphen.)
The em dash is named as such because it is the width of a capital—can you guess?—M. It is the dash I just used. (To type the em dash: ctrl + alt + numeric hyphen.)
The em dash works to set thoughts aside or to show an abrupt change in thought, as below:
The emdash can set off explanatory information as well:
The em dash can be used to show that a collective pronoun refers back to a list of items, as below:
Those are a few of the most common uses of the dash.
As a final side note, for the dash that represents your life, I add this advice: Treat every conversation you have with someone like it will be your last. You don’t want to regret your words if it is.