Em dashes

Em dashes are my favorite.

It’s like they kind of say “Oh and hey, by the way!” Even the way they look is like an extension that reaches out and says, “You might want to read this last bit right here, too!”

They almost operate like semicolons, but the difference is that semicolons can only be used to separate two independent clauses.

Em dashes can be used as a mark before an additional thought or detail in a sentence without any regard for independent or dependent clauses. Em dashes add emphasis, or they can be used to signify an interruption or an swift change of thought. They’re kind of in between a comma and a parenthesis — they’re a classier parenthesis if you ask me.

They don’t mold things together quite so seamlessly as commas, but they’re not as abrupt as parenthesis either. I think em dashes can be great fun, especially in novels. It’s like the author is giving you an extra nudge and a wink and letting you in on a joke or some crucial background information.

Since em dash usage is so whimsical, you’ll get a better hang of these things by seeing some examples.

Harold is standing against the wall — and wearing those horrible red pants — while waiting for the color guard girls.

I highly recommend that you try the hummus at Kabob King — just don’t mind the sweaty cashier with the bulbous nose.

My neighbor’s lawn gnome is corroded in a variety of horrifying substances — slugs, droppings, barnacles, and barley.

She talks behind everyone’s back — even though she reads the bible every night — and judges people for their shoes.

Obviously not enough people know how to use em-dashes since there isn’t even a darn em dash key on computer keyboards.

Here are some tips to get these little guys all up in your documents:

Microsoft Word should automatically make an em-dash if you hit the dash key twice and then hit the space bar.

If you’re using a Mac computer, you can make one by holding down shift + option + the dash key.

If you’re on a PC, hold down the Alt key and then 0151. Make sure your number lock is on. Who thought that one up?

Happy em dashing.

All for now,

LL

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