Are you unsure where, how, or even when to use the dash? If so, here are some helpful hints regarding these pesky punctuation marks.

  • Use two hyphens to form a dash (--).
  • Do not put spaces before or after the dash.
  • A dash marks a decided change in the thought or direction of a sentence.
  • Can be used to insert secondary material.

 1. Break in Thought: 

Everything that went wrong—from the car crash last night to the lost cat this morning—we blamed on our bad luck. 

 2. Appositives (a noun or noun phrase that renames a nearby noun): 

It was my aunt—the one with the glass eye—who sent the five-dollar bill in my Christmas card. 

3. Summaries and Lists:

 After the hurricane, the people were in need of the most basic necessities—clothing, food, fresh water, and personal care items. 


4. Finale (to give the sentence extra lift or importance):

She has always wanted to become a doctor—and she did. 

5. Interruption:

 Q. Why did you leave without me? 

A. Well, I forgot to— 

Q. How could you forget to find me? 

6. Attribution (usually a memorable line quoted by someone):

 “To thine own self be true.” 



 Tip: Sometimes commas, colons, semicolons, and even parenthesis can be used in place of a dash. Unless there is a specific reason for using the dash, avoid it. Unnecessary dashes create a choppy effect. 

To view or print our Helpful Handout, click here: Dashes

*comes with learning comic attached

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Page last modified February 14, 2019