The Dash 3

One of the places where there is a lot of push-back against using the dash is this:

…Q     The car on the left — what color was it?
…Q     The restaurant where you were eating — is that one where you often eat?

If you think of the first dash rule as “broken sentence structure” rather than just as an “interruption,” this dash makes a lot of sense. The beginning part of the sentence is a sentence that got started that did not get finished.

The other clue is that there is always something in the second sentence that refers back to the “false start.” A comma just doesn’t work. There is no comma rule that works.

Happy punctuating!


More on the Dash — Rule 2

The second rule for using a dash is for a complete sentence that is dropped into the middle of another complete sentence.

…I am looking at the article that — it is the first one on the page — was written about the new tax laws.

When this happens, there is no cap for the complete sentence after the first dash. If the sentence inside is making a statement, there is no punctuation for it; if it is asking a question, there is an interrog.

…Please turn to page 5 — it is entitled “The Auditing Process” — in the blue booklet.
…Please turn to page 5 — have you read this? — in the blue booklet.

…Have you seen Dr. Johnson — he is the one that treated you for the foot problem — who works at the UCLA clinic?
…Have you seen Dr. Johnson — did he treat you for the foot problem? — who works at the UCLA clinic?

Notice that the terminal punctuation for the sentence is for the sentence that has been interrupted.

Happy punctuating!


The Dash

Bill and I are in Falmouth, MA, this morning on Cape Cod, enjoying a little down time. The Massachusetts reporting group had a great convention this weekend, and I was privileged to be a part of it. I did my two sessions on the dash and colon; so I am going to repeat it here over the next few days.

The dash in reporting is “space, hyphen, hyphen, space.” We started this in the days when we had only a typewriter and did not have the em dash, the “long” dash, on our equipment. And this is one dash, not “dashes.” To say, “dashes” or “dash, dash” in referring to one instance of the dash is simply inaccurate.

There are three reasons for using a dash. The first is the most commonly used but is often thought of in too narrow a sense. The dash is used to show that a sentence got started but did not get finished. (It is not just for an “interruption.”) The rule reads “The dash is used for broken sentence structure.”

If a sentence gets started and doesn’t get completed for any reason, use the dash.

…I do not have — have enough of it — of the cream to last — to make it to my next appointment.

… Q    Were you ready to —
A     Yes.
Q    — go with them?

…The shirt that you say you were wearing that morning — was that shirt the one I am holding here?

In the first instance, the person interrupted himself; in the second, the witness interrupted the attorney, who just kept talking; in the third, the person did not finish the first thought and started over with a question that contains a “renaming” of the first thought.

Check in later this week for further discussion on the dash.

Happy punctuating!