How to Use the Almighty Em Dash


4/14/20241 min read

Em dashes are an incredibly versatile punctuation mark—perhaps even more so than the semicolon!

Here are some ways you can sprinkle—and I do recommend just a sprinkle!—em dashes into your writing.


As you may have noticed, em dashes are great for parenthetical elements, and—if you dare!—question marks and exclamation points are fair game in there.

And—if you’re writing at 6:37 a.m.—periods can join in the fun for abbreviations as well.

Or, if you’re—well—faltering in your speech . . .


Em dashes can also serve as colons, especially in a noun-pronoun sequence. Notice how what follows the dash serves to further explain what came before it.

Before making this post, I heard it—the thundering roar of my long-neglected pet dragon.

Panicking, I ran to the cavern—a snaggle-toothed maw in the rock.


Em dashes are especially helpful when you want to interrupt someone’s speech.

“But I already knew—”

“Yeah, I figured you might. Just didn’t want to be seen as a knave for not mentioning it.”

“You think it’ll work?”

Note: Spaced En Dashes

Now – if you’re like me – half of the fantasy you read comes from the UK.
If that’s the case, you’ll often see spaced en dashes like those instead of unspaced em dashes.

I rather like them myself. Dashing.