Punctuation Marks Part 4

Punctuation Marks Part 4




     A dash (a little horizontal line) is used in the middle of a line of text to indicate a break, often informally, or to add parenthetical information. We use dashes to separate words, not to separate parts of words like a hyphen does. Em dash (—) and en dash (–) are the most common types of dashes. In addition to length, the two dashes have different functions in a sentence.

Em dashes (—)

- Em dashes save the day when other punctuation marks seem awkward. For example, to make the sentence easier to understand, a pair of em dashes can replace a pair of commas around a clause that contains other commas.

  • After a second of hesitation, the second baseman leaped for the ball (or, rather, limped for it).

  • After a second of hesitation, the second baseman leaped for the ball—or, rather, limped for it.


   - Instead of colons, use em dashes when you want to generate a strong emotion in your writing or create a more casual tone.

  • He is afraid of two things: spiders and senior prom.

  • He is afraid of two things—spiders and senior prom.


   - Writers and transcriptionists tend to replace intentionally omitted or unknown letters with em dashes. In this case, em dashes appear two or three in a row.

  • A former employee of the accused company, ———, offered a statement off the record.


En dashes (–) 

    - We use en dashes to indicate a span of time or a range of numbers. In the following example, the dash means either “to” or “through.”

  • The teacher assigned pages 101–181 for tonight’s reading material.

   - We use an en dash to indicate a connection between two words. An en dash can be used in a complex compound adjective when one or both of its elements are already hyphenated compounds. It’s also acceptable to use hyphens in these kinds of sentences—just be consistent.

  • The pro-choice-anti-abortion argument is always a heated one.

  • The pro-choice–anti-abortion argument is always a heated one.

   - When an element of a complex compound adjective is a proper noun made up of two or more words, however, the proper noun is left open and connected to the rest of the phrase with an en dash.

  • The Nobel Prize–winning author will be reading from her book at the library tonight.


                                                              Parentheses ( )

   - We use parentheses to set aside extra unnecessary information (if you remove the text in parentheses, the sentence should still be complete and correct.)

  • Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson) was as iconic as her life was tragic. 


 - They are also used for complementary explanations or personal commentary from the author.

  • The newly elected CEO said that things will be different this time. (Isn’t that what they all say?)


  - Parentheses are used for defining acronyms. 

  • There was political pushback during the initial proposal of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). 


   - We can use parentheses for in-text citations in the APA, MLA and Chicago formats.

“This is a direct citation” (Chapman, 2019, p. 126).

You can put an s in parentheses at the end of a word when you want to show that it can be either singular or plural.

  • Any question(s) you have should be answered in the next chapter.  


                                                             Brackets [ ]

     Brackets look like parentheses but have squared corners instead of curved lines.

     They are often found inside quotations to show that text added to the original quote.

[Original] “My first year at the company was full of ups and downs. I met most of my goals, but not without some concessions. All in all, I’d say it went well.”

[Abridged] “All in all, I’d say [my first year] went well.” 


   - When the first letter of a quotation is not capitalized in the original text, you can use brackets around the first letter when you want to capitalize it. (The part of the sentence you use cannot be a sentence fragment.)

[Original] “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” —Albert Einstein

[Abridged] “[T]ry to become a man of value.”  


   - We use brackets [sic] in quotes in order to show that the original quotation included an error, the secondary writer tends to keep the error for posterity. For instance, the author Theodore Dreiser in An American Tragedy famously misspells “ships” as “chips.”

 Harmoniously abandoning themselves to the rhythm of the music—like two small chips [sic] being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea.”

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