The most highly customizable punctuation mark is the em dash. The em dash will substitute commas, brackets, or colons, depending on the context — in each case to have a slightly different impact.

What is an Em Dash:

It turns out that em dash (also known as m dash, m-rule, long dash, or “mutton” in the grammatical slang circles) is just the prolonged dash you see anytime there is a pause in narrative or speech. Despite its flexibility, em dash is usually restricted to two appearances per word. Otherwise, it will likely result in confusion rather than clarity.

Should not confuse the em dash (—) for the marginally lower en dash (–) or the bigger hyphen-). These marks serve different purposes and are explained further in other sections.

Em dashes, instead of commas:

In lieu of commas a set of em dashes may be used to boost readability. Nonetheless, remember that dashes are often more emphatic than commas.

Em instead of parentheses:

A pair of em dashes might replace a couple of parentheses. Dashes are deemed less structured than brackets, so are more invasive as well. Using dashes if you want to draw attention to the parenthetical text. To be more implicitly respectful of the parenthetical text, using parentheses. Please notice that corresponding punctuation will be skipped where dashes are used instead of parentheses.

Em Dash instead of a colon:

The em dash should be used instead of a colon if the end of the statement needs to be emphasised. The dash becomes less than a standard colon.

Ways to type an em dash:

  1. Using incorporated keyboard shortcuts.

I may use keyboard shortcuts on a regular-size keyboard with a number keypad to generate em dashes and en dashes:

Em dash: Alt+0151 (—)

By Word at Microsoft:

Em dash (—): Alt+Ctrl+-

Em dash button on keyboard:

On Microsoft Word (and most other word processing systems) they merge to create an em dash when you place two dashes next to one another (–).

On most web editors, however,—for eg, WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook — those two hyphens don’t suddenly become em-dashes.

Which means you can either copy and paste from Word, or use the shortcut on the em dash keyboard to create it yourself.

Plug in an external keypad or full-size keyboard. :

You would only consider this choice appealing if you prefer to treat your laptop as a desktop.

I like plugging my desktop into a large computer for reading papers, and add a wireless mouse and full-size keyboard, along with a number keypad. Alternatively, you can use your laptop keyboard and touchpad to plug in a portable usb number keypad. With this set-up, my normal method of making em and en dashes — using Alt codes — is without problems.

Use the autocorrect function incorporated in your word processor:

When you select two hyphens accompanied by a gap in Google Docs, those two hyphens are converted to an em sprint. Word and Scrivener will do likewise out of the box.

But there is no autocorrect option for an en dash out of the package. So, you can try this: Go to Tools, Options, Proofing in Word 2010 and up, and click the AutoCorrect Options button.

Production of the em dash:

Most word processors attach an em dash immediately as you type in a pair of hyphens. Otherwise, search for a instruction named “attach mark.” When you’re using a typewriter, the nearest you’ll come to an em Dash is a pair of hyphens.

Use the character-map of your operating system:

Type in “character diagram” use the search feature of your operating system. A symbol grid should show up so you can pick the em dash or dash to transfer it to your text. In Scrivener, by going to Edit, Character Map, you can access character map of your operating system. You will need to go to Insert, Symbol, in Word 2010 and upwards. Go into Insert, Different Characters, in Google Files.

When should Em Dashes be avoided?

Too much em dashing at the expense of the story can stifle and break up a narrative flow. For one, arguing With Vampires is a blog that takes apart the Twilight series writing, and Dana, the writer, has collected a number of examples of incorrectly positioned em dashes.

How to remove em or en dash?

If you have an Em dash or En dash in your Word document, and want to remove it, do one of the following.

  • Using your cursor to show the Em line, or En line, then click the Delete key.
  • After Em dash or En dash, place the text cursor, then press the Backspace key.

Whether you choose a standard hyphen to substitute the Em dash or En dash, select the hyphen after deleting the Em or En dash. There are other options to build em dashes and en dashes on your desktop. If you just have the option of using the character chart (the least effective choice), consider adding, for now, two hyphens for em dashes into your text. You will also use locating and removing the feature from your word processor to substitute the hyphens with the right mark later.

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