Pearson Adult Learning Centre Home
Pearson Adult Learning Centre
  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (April 4, 2006)

The Dash: 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 parentheses."

*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)


See our most recent tips.

Tips from November 2001 to April 2002

Tips from September 2000 to October 2001.

Tips from January to August 2000
Tips from January to December 1999


Visit our Contact Us page to send email to the centre.
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 Pearson Adult Learning Centre, New Westminster School District 40
Web Site Created by The Educated Web
Last modified: July 31, 2009