What is that dash for anyway?
The dash is kind of like the superhero of punctuation. Not only does it have a cool, sleek name, it’s often referred to as the “super comma.” But you can’t just go around using dashes because you want super commas. There are some rules you should follow, and you don’t want to overuse any one type of punctuation.
The following two rules should help you make good decisions regarding that dashing dash:
- You use dashes to set apart or emphasize the content that is within the dashes or after a dash. The content within the dashes or after the dash gets more emphasis than it would if you just used commas or parentheses.
I think the reason those books became so popular—so much so that they became a cultural phenomenon—is that the world was ready for a little bit of magic.
- You can also use dashes to set apart an appositive phrase or extra information that contains commas.
Of course, while the rules related to using dashes are relatively simple, there seems to be great confusion over how the dash is actually created in word processing programs.
To be sure, the dash is no hyphen. The hyphen is smaller and comes between words like mother-in-law. The dash is longer and is created by placing two hyphens in a row. Then, after you space after the word after the dash, most word processing programs will turn those two little hyphens -- into a dash—like so.