The Rules in Using Dash in the English Language

Commonly mistaken with hyphens, dashes have their independent functions. Therefore, they have to be used according to their rules. Like any other punctuation marks, each punctuation has its own unique rule that it should not be mistaken to be interchanged with others – unless if they have the same rules. Hence, the best thing to do is to know to when you can use a particular punctuation.

Dashes add emphasis, an interruption or a change of thought in sentences. They look like hyphens, but dashes are longer and spaces are placed in the sentences. Here are some rules some overlook in using dashes.

· When dashes are placed in the sentence, the words or phrases it separates are not generally part of the subject. It is more of an added detail to it.

My mother – and her old sewing machine – is always seen together working.

The children – walking in as a group – smiled and waved at the audiences during the parade.

The mothers – marching down the road with their basketful of groceries – seem to talk happily with other housewives sharing their moments of motherhood.

· It can also be used in appositives. Appositives are extra information inserted in a sentence for clarification.


Three of the siblings – Karen, Michaela, and Giovanni – attended the conference.

I will be out of the country. If you need to contact me, call my secretary – Steven, not Willard – for any queries.

A lot of items – a wrist watch, a cellular phone, and a bag full of cash – were noticed to be missing in the crime scene. Investigators are now reviewing footages from the CCTV camera.

· When writing a list of items before the independent clause, separate it with a dash.

Milk, butter, flour, some vanilla – these are all I need to make pancakes.

Snakes, crocodiles, dinosaurs – they are all creepy to look at.

Cream cheese, tomatoes, basil, pasta – I am now ready to make the perfect pasta for you.

· A dash can also be used in a list to separate one which needs emphasis.


My uncle has a huge plantation where he grows rice, corn, cotton – and mangoes!

Karen brought home some goodies like chocolates, candies, pizza – and Coke.

I really like meeting my relatives like Aunt Helen, Uncle Steve, Uncle Sam – and Uncle Ross.

These rules are very easy to remember. Anyone who has read this is expected to use dashes more correctly. Again, do not interchange them with hyphens. Dashes have their own usage and these are something you should not forget.

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