How Do You Use Em Dashes?

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Lucy Williams

Puzzled by punctuation? There can be a lot to learn. Are you happy enough with hyphens and cool with commas but dazzled by dashes?

And it’s not just dashes but different types of dashes. For a start, em dashes (written without a hyphen). What are they anyway? Don’t be put off by their strange name, if you know how to use them properly, they can be the most “dashing” of punctuation marks. They help the reader separate the main point from asides, signposting them through the text. But you need to know how to use them properly. You don’t want your text to be dashed in all the wrong kinds of ways.

Em dash suricata

Try this quiz on em dashes to test your knowledge!

Learn how to use em dashes in our online punctuation course Punctuation Pro.

True or false?

1. The em dash can function like a comma, a colon or parentheses⁠.

2. The em dash is a much less formal equivalent of the colon and parenthesis.

3. There should be no spaces around em dashes.

4. If an em dash appears where a comma could also appear, the comma should be left out.

5. A pair of dashes can be used to set off extra information when the break in continuity is more than would be shown by a comma, or when the dash would clarify the sentence structure better than a comma.

Scroll down to check your answers.

Em dash quiz answers

1. True.

2. False. It’s considered a little less formal.

3. False. While the norm is not to place spaces around em dashes, some style guides may require them.

4. True.

5. True.

Check out our recommended punctuation books.

Dazzled by dashes? Em dashes needn’t be hard. Test your skills with this quiz! Click To Tweet

Start your journey to punctuation proficiency today!

If this quiz has piqued your interest and you want to learn more about punctuation, sign up for our Punctuation Pro course.

Written by Lucy Williams

Lucy Williams is a subtitler and a Spanish-English translator for fashion, tourism and luxury goods/services. She holds the CIOL Diploma in Translation and is a native English copywriter specialising in SEO-optimised long-form content. Connect with Lucy on LinkedIn.

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