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1.6. The dash

Dashes are used for setting off material from the rest of a sentence. The material set off usually causes a noticeable break in the sentence's rhythm or meaning. Dashes are used to set off text either in the middle or at the end of a sentence. In very informal writing, such as quick notes or letters to close friends, the dash can become a substitute for other punctuation. In most formal or college writing, however, it is used sparingly - and then for special effect.

A dash or dashes are used to introduce a word, phrase, or a clause that summarises or restates what comes just before:

e.g. But ideas - that is, opinions backed with genuine reasoning - are

extremely difficult to develop. -Wayne Booth

Dashes are used to set off a series of specific items:

e.g. The wings of the natural extant flying vertebrates - the birds and

the bats - are direct modifications of the preexisting front limbs.

- Michael 1 Katz

A dash or dashes are used to set off an interruption that is important to the meaning of the sentence but not grammatically part of it:

e.g. It matters not where or how far you travel - the farther commonly

the worse - but how much alive you are. -Henry David Thoreau

A dash or dashes are used to emphasise nonrestrictive elements: e.g. The qualities Monet painted - sunlight, rich shadows, deep

colours - abounded near the rivers and gardens he used as subjects.

A dash is used to indicate an unfinished thought or an unfinished remark in dialogue: e.g. If she found out - he did not want to think what she would do.

"I was worried you might think I had stayed away because I was influenced by - "He stopped and lowered his eyes. Astonished, Howe said, "Influenced by what?" "Well, by - "Blackburn hesitated and for answer pointed to the table. -Lionel Trilling

When the dash is used to indicate an unfinished remark, it should be followed only by quotation marks, not by a comma or period.

If two dashes set off a parenthetical remark that asks a question or makes an exclamation, put the question mark or the exclamation point before the second dash:

e.g. During the American bicentennial of 1976, Canada's gift to the United States was a book of superb photographs of - what else?

- scenery. -June Callwood

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EXERCISE

Insert dashes in the appropriate places in the following sentences:

1. All pupils brought their dinners in baskets corn dodger, buttermilk and other good things and sat in the shade of the trees at noon and ate them. -Mark Twain 2. The entrepreneur individualistic, restless, with vision, guile and courage has been the economists' only hero. -John Kenneth Galbraith

3. I would have evaded and for how long could I have afforded to delay? learning the great lesson of school, that I had a public identity. –Richard Rodriguez

4. Polar explorers one gathers from their accounts sought at the Poles something of the sublime. -Annie Dillard

5. The fighters in the ring are time-bound is anything so excruciatingly long as a fiercely contested three-minute round? but the fight itself is timeless. –Joyce Carol Oates

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