Grammatical rules for dashes:
- A pair of dashes may be used in place of a pair of commas or parentheses.
- A dash may also function like a colon in introducing a list or a qualifying statement.
- You can make a dash out of two hyphens (thus –). But most text editing programs will let you insert a dash from the character map.*
- Check your style guide to see when it calls for hyphens, en dashes, or em dashes.
- Check your style guide to see if your publisher wants an em dash or an en dash.
- Fun fact: An em dash is the width of the letter m in the font you are using. Likewise, an en dash is the width of the letter n in the font you are using.
* What’s a character map? A character map shows you all of the characters available to you in the various fonts installed on your computer. You can find it by going to your Start menu (in Windows) and searching for “Character Map.” You can select and copy characters from the character map into your document. Most operating systems have a character map of some sort.