Em Dash: When Should I Use It

em dash

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Are you a professional writer who’s ever found yourself wondering when to use an em dash? You might have seen the punctuation mark in published pieces of writing, but could never quite identify when and how to properly employ it. If so, you’re not alone!

The em dash poses one of the trickiest linguistic conundrums for scorekeepers of grammar—one which I’m here to help simplify for you today. So let’s get started!

What is an Em Dash?

An em dash is a punctuation mark that is used to indicate a break in thought or to highlight a phrase within a sentence. Unlike other dashes, this punctuation mark is longer and can be used in place of commas, parentheses, or academic writing. While some writers choose to shy away from the em dash, many others embrace its versatility as a tool for creating emphasis and clarity in their prose.

em dash

Em Dash – When Should I Use It?

The Em Dash is a versatile punctuation mark that is often overlooked in writing. This punctuation mark can be used in several situations:

  1. It can be used in place of parentheses or commas to clarify a thought, making the sentence easier to read. For example, instead of using commas to set off a phrase in the sentence, you can use this punctuation mark to make the pause more pronounced.
  2. Em dashes can be used to introduce related ideas in a sentence. This is useful when you want to add information that’s important but not necessarily related to the current sentence.
  3. You can also use em dashes to emphasize words or phrases. By using italics or bold typeface, you can draw the writer were interrupted or lost for words.

So, if you want to add variety and clarity to your writing, give this punctuation mark a try!

How to Properly Format an Em Dash 

If you want to add some emphasis or drama to your writing, using an em dash can be a great way to do it. However, if you don’t use them properly, they can easily become a distraction and make your writing look unprofessional. So, how do you use em dashes correctly?

The first step is to understand that they are

Examples of Using the Em Dash Correctly and Incorrectly in Writing 

The em dash is a versatile punctuation mark that can add emphasis or clarity to a sentence, but like any tool, it can also be misused.

One common mistake is to use it interchangeably with the hyphen or the en dash.

  • For example, “the Chicago-New York train” should actually be “the Chicago–New York train.”

Another incorrect usage is to put spaces around this punctuation mark, like this: “I went to the store — but I forgot my wallet.” The correct way to use an em dash is to omit the spaces and use it to indicate a sudden change of direction or to enclose a parenthetical phrase.

  • For example, “She was about to leave—when her phone rang.”

Overall, using the em dash correctly in writing can enhance the clarity and effectiveness of one’s prose.


The Em Dash is a powerful punctuation mark that has been used in written communication for centuries. It can be used to clarify thoughts, introduce related ideas, and connect two independent clauses without the need of other conjunctions. It’s important to understand how this punctuation mark become an essential part of any writer’s toolkit. We hope this article gave you a better understanding of what it is and why it matters so much in crafting effective pieces of writing.


What is an em dash?

This is a punctuation mark that looks like two short dashes side by side (—). It is used to set off nonessential elements in a sentence, such as extra information or an aside. It can also be used to connect two independent clauses without using other conjunctions.

When should I use an em dash?

This punctuation mark should be used when there is something particularly important you want to emphasize in the sentence, when you need to add additional information or make a clarification, or when you are connecting two independent clauses without using other conjunctions.

How do I properly format an em dash?

When typing this punctuation mark, it should not have any spaces before and after it; however, if you are writing it by hand, you should include a space on either side of the dash.

Can I use an em dash in place of parentheses or commas?

Yes, this can be used to emphasize something that may have been set off with parentheses or commas.

What are some examples of using an em dash correctly and incorrectly in writing?

Correct: Her sister—a talented artist—was always supportive.

Incorrect: Her sister — a talented artist was always supportive.

Correct: She had one goal—to finish her degree—and would not let anything stop her.

Incorrect: She had one goal — to finish her degree and would not let anything stop her.

As you can see, using the em dash correctly can help clarify your thoughts and make your writing stand out. It is important to understand how this punctuation mark works so that you can ensure your writing style is correct. Learning when and how to properly use this punctuation mark will give your writing a professional touch.

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