em dash (—)
Definition - The type of dash that is — for the most part — used to indicate sudden breaks in thought.


1. Use it for sudden breaks in thought that cause abrupt sentence structure changes.

The truth of the matter — and it is a truth that is really true — is that life IS a bowl of cherries.

2. Use it to show an open range.

Jon Smith, 1944—

3. Use it to give emphasis or explanation.

I drank 6 gallons of milk — the store's entire stock.

4. Use it to separate a name's subordinate, modifying element from its main element.

University of Quebec—Montreal

5. Use two em dashes to indicate missing letters.

Don't walk on Hast—— street.
Bruce Spring——n

6. Use three em dashes with a space on either side to show the omission of a whole word.

Row, row, ——— your boat.

7. Use it before a final clause that summarizes a previous series.

Love of country, love of family, love of self — these are a few of my favorite things.

8. Never use it immediately after a comma, colon, or semicolon.

If a man were to, — but why bother. (bad)

9. You can use it to introduce a list of items.

The driver said that three things were not allowed on the bus - food, water, and gum.

10. Use it to precede a credit line.

Every man's work shall be made manifest. — I Corinthians 3:13.

11. Instead of a colon, use it with a preceding question mark.

What do you mean by this? — "Anything goes."

Etymology -
The symbol was called the em dash because it is the same width as the capital M.
Note: The em is the length in points by which font sizes are specified. For example, with 9-point type, the em is 9 points wide, while the 24-point type em is 24 points wide.

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