The Dash

As noted in the section on commas, you can use a dash at the beginning and end of parenthetical information. Generally, you use dashes when you want to emphasize the information, but you might also use them if the parenthetical information is too long or abrupt to be set off with commas, as in the following examples:

  • I think you would look fine wearing either the silk blouse—the one with the blue pattern—or the angora sweater. (abrupt interruption)
  • The idea of returning to the basics in the classroom—a notion which, incidentally, has been quietly supported for years by many teachers—is finally gaining some currency with school administrators. (lengthy interruption containing internal commas)

You can use a dash to conclude a list of elements, focusing them all toward one point:

  • Chocolate, cream, honey and peanut butter—all go into this fabulously rich dessert.

Dashes also mark sharp turns in thought:

  • We pored over exotic, mouth-watering menus from Nemo Catering, Menu du Jour, Taste Temptations and three other reputable caterers—and rejected them all.

Copyright notice for HyperGrammar 2

© Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa
A tool made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Search by related themes

Want to learn more about a theme discussed on this page? Click on a link below to see all the pages on the Language Portal of Canada that relate to the theme you selected. The search results will be displayed in Language Navigator.