When to use semicolons and when to use em dashes?

Asked by: Jennifer Williams

The difference between an em-dash and a semicolon is the length and purpose of the pause it creates. An em-dash isolates the idea that follows; a semicolon combines two ideas into one. The best way to determine if you can use an em-dash or a semicolon is to try them both out in your sentence, then read it aloud.

When should em dashes be used?

Em dashes can be used in pairs to mark off additional information that is not essential to understand the sentence. Here they function similarly to parentheses or a pair of commas. An em dash is usually written without spaces on either side, although some style guides do recommend using spaces.

How do you use dashes and semicolons?

  1. Semicolons. Use a semicolon to separate two related independent clauses (clauses that can stand as sentences on their own) that are not linked by a comma and coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, yet, and so). …
  2. Colons. Use a colon to introduce a list. …
  3. Dashes. A dash is typed as two hyphens.
  4. Can an em dash replace a semicolon?

    An em dash is a punctuation mark that can be used to replace commas, parentheses, colons, and semicolons. In general, the em dash is seen as being more interruptive or striking than other punctuation, so it is often used stylistically to draw a reader’s attention to a particular bit of information.

    Should I use a colon or em dash?

    Use an em dash instead of a colon when you want to emphasize the conclusion of your sentence without giving it all of the connotations that a colon brings. A dash can add “extra” information and is more flexible in this way. It is also less formal than a colon.

    How do you use dashes in a sentence?

    Use dashes to mark the beginning and end of a series, which might otherwise get confused, with the rest of the sentence: Example: The three female characters—the wife, the nun, and the jockey—are the incarnation of excellence. Dashes are also used to mark the interruption of a sentence in dialogue: Example: “Help!

    What is an example of a dash?

    Dashes replace otherwise mandatory punctuation, such as the commas after Iowa and 2020 in the following examples: Without dash: The man from Ames, Iowa, arrived. With dash: The man—he was from Ames, Iowa—arrived.

    Which list orders the punctuation marks from shortest to longest?

    In classical rhetoric, punctuation was used to indicate where, and for how long, a speaker would pause during his or her speech. The length of the pause for particular punctuation marks varied, and the list in order of shortest to longest goes as such: a comma, a colon, and a period.

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