A Handy Mark
You can use the dash (—) in two ways—to set off
words that interrupt the main thought or as a way to introduce
information (meaning "in other words" or "that is." Note how the
second use of a dash is very close to a colon, but less formal).
In The Elements of Style, Strunk and
White advise us to, "Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or
interruption, and to announce a long appositive or summary."
Further they say that a "dash is a mark of separation stronger
than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than
*To make a dash with Word, hold down the "Alt"
key and then type 0151 on your number pad; sometimes putting in
two hyphens makes a dash automatically as well.
The bicyclist whooshed by me—I saw his bike
just in time—and disappeared down the street.
One thing I can tell you about grammar—the
dash is a handy mark!
His most common way to learn English—if it
could be called a way to learn—was to spend hours working with
an electronic translation dictionary. (as an abrupt break;
parentheses could also be used)
The windshield wipers began to make a noise—a
squeaking racket that set his teeth on edge. (as an informal
colon; note that a comma would serve as well in this case)
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