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That Great Pair of Red Heels: The Em Dash

The em dash is like a killer pair of red heels. They can accent an outfit or dress in ways nothing else can. No, they may not be necessary. You could wear some sneakers or a pair of black flats. But red heels make a statement.

Em dashes do the same thing. They break up a sentence, and tell the reader to pay attention. And just like those red heels, they can be overused. You wouldn’t want to wear red heels, a bright red purse, a red dress, a red jacket, and a red boa around your neck. When you pepper your writing with too many em dashes, they lose the desired effect.

Here are a couple things to remember when using an em dash:

*No spaces around an em dash.

*They can offset words or phrases, not always part of the subject.

          Example: She is the girl—the only girl—he could call at this hour.

*They can replace mandatory punctuation such as commas, colons, and semicolons.

          Example: The paper—dated March 1972—was found in the back of the closet.

*If you can’t find the em dash symbol on your computer, use two hyphens next to each other — and sometimes the computer will automatically convert them for you.

Hope this helps with your writing. Please don’t be afraid to whip out those red heels. We all need a little flair now and again.



1.The Chicago Manual of Style. Fourteenth edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, p. 5, p. 107.


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1 Comment

  1. I might just have to try on a “red pair of heels” soon. 🙂


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