January 10, 2015 in 

An em dash is a punctuation mark often used to divide clauses or phrases within sentences, mark sudden shifts of thought, or break the flow of sentences. Slightly longer than its counterpart hyphen, an em dash often replaces commas, parentheses, or colons when writing long texts.

Em dashes can emphasize a sentence by underscoring words or phrases that deserve particular emphasis.

Em dashes can be used to distinguish clauses or phrases within a sentence.

Em dashes can emphasize phrases or sentences by breaking up their rhythm and inserting parenthetical comments.

Em dashes can be used in place of commas, parentheses, and colons when space for punctuation becomes limited–for example, when too many commas exist within one phrase or the parenthetical lines are long.

Here are a few more examples of how an em dash can be utilized:

Em dashes can be used to mark off clauses or phrases within sentences when necessary – for instance, when they contain long chains of words or multiple commas.

Em dashes can be an efficient alternative to commas, parentheses, and colons when needed, for instance, when too many commas already exist or when parenthetical sentences become lengthy.

Em dashes can also be used for emphasis, as in this sentence:

“I won’t attend that party because I don’t want to see her there.”

An em dash here emphasizes that the speaker wishes to avoid seeing the person they’re discussing.

Em dashes can be an invaluable writing tool when used sparingly and strategically. Used correctly, they can add clarity or emphasis to sentences; overuse may cause disjointed writing that appears choppy and unclear. As with all punctuation marks, such as an em dash punctuation mark, it should only be used sparingly when necessary.

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About the author 

CJ McDaniel

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!

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