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“Children don’t read to find their identity, to free themselves from guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology.... They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.... When a book is boring, they yawn openly. They don’t expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish illusions.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer, from a speech delivered
when receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Quoted in the Observer, Dec. 17, 1978


A mark or sign used variously in printed or written matter, especially to note a break, pause, or hesitation; to begin and end parenthetic text; to indicate omission of letters or words; to substitute for certain uses of the colon; and to separate elements of a sentence or a series of sentences, as a question from its answer.

ABRUPT CHANGE: Use dashes to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause.
We will fly to Paris in June — if I get a raise.
Smith offered a plan — it was unprecedented — to raise revenues.

SERIES WITHIN A PHRASE: When a phrase that would otherwise be set off by commas contains a series of words that must be separated by commas, use dashes to set off the full phrase.
He listed the qualities — intelligence, humor, conservatism, independence — that he liked in an executive.

ATTRIBUTION: Use a dash before an author’s or composer’s name at the end of a quotation.
“Who steals my purse steals trash.” — Shakespeare.

IN LISTS: Dashes should be used to introduce individual sections of a list. Capitalize the first word following a dash. Use periods, not semicolons, at the end of each section.
Jones gave the following reasons:
  — He never ordered the package.
  — If he did, it didn’t come.
  — If it did, he sent it back.

— The Associated Press Stylebook —

For information about usage of the dash, click here to consult one of the many style books listed on the Resources page


Contact Jeff Rubin for more information about punctuation
(510) 724-9507