Dashes Come in Different Sizes (and Have Different Roles)
- On February 8, 2022
Astute readers caught a mistake in last week’s post—since corrected.
The short dash—the one that goes between numbers to indicate a range (and that’s pretty much it)—is called the en dash; the long one—I’m using them in this sentence to bracket extra information—is the em dash. It makes sense: n is a short letter, and m is a long one. (Neither dash is to be confused with the hyphen, which is shorter still.)
My first sentence (above) also includes a single em dash. When you use the long dash this way, you’re alerting the reader that you’re about to say something surprising or something you want to emphasize.
This all points to the importance of proofreading. While I did review the post several times, I didn’t have someone else look at it, which is my normal routine. And I paid the price!
One reader asked why I didn’t put a comma after the word day in the sentence, The other day I walked past a construction site where a pair of posh buildings is going up.
After introductory phrases like the other day, it’s up to the writer whether to include a comma. Will the sentence be clearer and easier to read with one? It helps to read the sentence aloud and hear whether you pause. If you do, you likely need a comma. I read the sentence through without stopping, so it sounded comma free to me.