I need help in uderstanding where I can use an em-dash.

1. Can I put an em-dash in a sentence that explains the previous sentence? 


For example: "Could you please provide me the full list of potential participants -- I would like to be able to track absences." If not, what would be the correct punctuation for this case? 2. I usually put the em-dash in the sentences that start with "Regarding". For example: "Regarding the new scoring system -- have you read the article on this posted on our website?" Thank you for your help! Astra

dash dashes asked Mar 15 '13 at 10:10 Astra New member

1 answer


The em-dash is typically used to replace commas and provide a greater emphasis to the pause than the comma provides. The em-dash may also replace colons and semicolons. Let's look at your first example to see how it works.


Could you please provide me the full list of potential participants--I would like to be able to track absences. (Note: nearly all typographers agree that no space should occur before and after the em-dash.)


The sentence is best expressed (and punctuated) as two separate sentences. Could you please provide me the full list of potential participants? I would like to be able to track absences.


The two sentences can be combined into a single compound sentence. The most common (and preferred) method is to use a comma + conjunction. Could you please provide me the full list of potential participants, because I would like to be able to track absences. I dislike this because the question mark is lost, and the meaning become more vague. This may be a bit better: I would like to track absences, so could you please provide the full list of participants?


Although the comma + conjunction formulation is the most common, you can also use a semicolon if the two sentences are tightly linked. Could you please provide me the full list of potential participants; I would like to be able to track absences. This still has the problem of the lost question mark.


To provide greater emphasis, you can replace the semicolon with the em-dash. But again, you still have the question mark problem.


Your second example presents a different issue. Technically, the em-dash can be used to replace the comma that ends the phrase beginning with "Regarding ...."  What you say in this sentence, however, does not merit the increased emphasis of the em-dash.


The em-dash is a useful tool. It should, however, be used sparingly. If overused, it loses its power to emphasize. I hope this helps.

link answered Mar 15 '13 at 20:03 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you for all your help, Jeff!

AstraMar 17 '13 at 06:53

I have just one more question about using the em-dash with "Regarding...". Will it be appropriate using the em-dash in a sentence that provides an answer to a question or additional information after a discussion. For example: "Regarding the market share calculation methodologies question raised yesterday--I think we should use the X approach, as it will let us meet budget goals"

AstraMar 17 '13 at 06:57

No, you should use an em-dash after that sentence, Astra. However, you shouldn't even be using "em-dashes" to begin with – it is American. The proper English' punctuation is the en dash – (–). As you can see; it's smaller, and has spaces beside it. Typically – because the Americans abolished the dashes from their keyboard – people use two hyphens as a dash – (--). However, the length of two hyphens are the length of an en-dash, not an em-dash. The em-dash is the length of three hyphens. I use en-dashes all the time – it simply is a punctuation that commas won't always do. Example: You wouldn't say, "This is my friend, Matt." Although it is proper to put a comma right after or before when referring to someone with a noun, in this case; you are not. You are not talking to Matt; you are talking to someone else. Since you are; it should be written as such: " This is my friend – Matt."

Hope you learned about dashes! And if you ever want to know why Americans abolished the dashes, or even why they came up with the "em-dash"; just tell me!



CarletonJan 05 at 21:59

On the third word of that last sentence I said; I meant shouldn't – not should. O_O

CarletonJan 05 at 22:00

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