What is Dash & When to Use a Dash in a Sentence and in Writing?

Let’s explore Dash!

What is Dash & When to Use a Dash in a Sentence and in Writing?

What is dash? When to use a dash in a sentence? Any idea! Here, we will discuss all about dashes, along with its basic definition, types like em dashes, en dashes, etc, and a lot of examples.

Let’s see when to use dash!

What is Dash? Definition

A dash(–) is basically a piece of a horizontal line that floats in the middle of a line of the sentence.

  • But remember it’s not an underscore that is present at the bottom(_).
  • It’s also longer than a hyphen.
what is dash when to-use a dash in sentence writing
What is dash when to-use a dash in sentence writing

When to use Dash  in a Sentence 

  • Dashes are used to indicate a range or pause in a sentence.
  • Dashes are used to separate the group of words in a sentence.
  • It’s not used to separate parts of the word, as a hyphen does.

We will learn the use of the dash in detail after few examples and basic knowledge.

Dash Examples

Dash

  • 1:00 pm–3:00pm
  • London–Paris

Hyphen, it is not the same as a dash, see below for examples

  • chocolate-covered
  • snow-covered

Dash: Necessity or Option?

The first thing to keep in mind is that dashes are never a necessity. They are not required by the laws of grammar and punctuation. Overusing dashes can become a sin for your writing purposes.

So just use dashes sometimes as an alternative in your writing.

Like sometimes we drink tea and sometimes coffee as an alternative, same purpose dashes serve to our prescribed grammar laws.

Types of Dashes

There are three types of dashes:

  • em dash
  • en dash
  • double hyphen dash

The widely used dashes are em dash (—) and en dash (–). The most common way to remember the difference between the two dashes is to visualize them.

The em dash has a visualization of the length of the letter ‘M’ whereas the en dash has a visualization of the length of the letter ‘N’.

  • The length of M > The length of N
  • Em dash (—) > En dash (–)

Both the dashes not only differ in length but also differ in their use.

Em dash

Em dashes are used to replace parentheses at the end of a sentence or when there are multiple commas in a parenthetical phrase.

Em Dash Example

Sentence with parentheses:

  • After some time, the baseman leaped for the ball (or, rather, limped for it).

Sentence with em dash:

  • After some time, the baseman leaped for the ball—or, rather, limped for it.

En dash

The en dashes are used to indicate-

Period

  • Example: 1:00 pm–3:00 pm

Ranges of numbers

  • Example: 101–200

To denote a connection

  • Example: Noble prize–Winning Author

Use of Dash in Sentence

Dashes are usually not a necessity. They don’t have a unique role in grammar. Dashes are an alternative to punctuation marks. They can replace,

  • the semicolon(;),
  • a colon(:),
  • or even the three dots(…) used to indicate a pause.

Check out worksheets for dash for practice.

Following are possible ways to use a dash in a sentence:

  • Using dashes with Ranges
  • Using dashes in Compound Adjectives
  • Using Dash as an alternative
  • Using Dashes as parentheses
  • Using Dashes to Credit Quotations

Using dashes with Ranges

Dash can be used to indicate the period and range of numbers in a sentence

Example Without Dash:

  • World War II ran between 1939 to 1945. Or
  • World War II ran from 1939 to 1945.

Example With Dash:

  • World War II ran 1939–1945.

So in the above sentence, dash removed the use of words ‘between’ and ‘from’.

Using dashes in Compound Adjectives

Dashes can be used as an alternative to a hyphen in a compound adjective with two equal elements.

Example with hyphen:

  • The India-Pakistan friendship has been increasing day-by-day.

Example with Dash:

  • London–Paris is a beautiful place.

Using Dash as an alternative

Dashes can be used as an alternative to:

  • Colon
  • Semicolon
  • Ellipsis

Dash as an alternative to the colon

Colons are used to offer more information about something that is previously mentioned in the sentence.

Example using a colon

  • The teacher demanded only one thing from the students: hard work.

In the above sentence, the colon is used. Now, look at the following sentence where the dash is used.

Example using the dash

  • The teacher demanded only one thing from the students – hard work.

Dash as an alternative to semicolon

Semicolons are used to give another transition between the two elements.

Example without semicolon:

  • The teacher demanded effort from her students. That’s all she ever asked for.

The above sentence looks a bit complex.

Example with a semicolon:

  • The boss demanded hard work from his employees; that’s all he ever asked for.

In the above sentence, the semicolon gives a smoother transition between the two sentences.

Example with a dash:

  • The boss demanded hard work from his employees — that’s all he ever asked for.

Dash as an alternative to ellipsis (i.e three dots)

Ellipsis is used to give a pause or effect within the sentence.

Example using Ellipsis

  • As Rohan passed by near his grandmother, something caught his eye. It was the sparkle of… the diamond of her grandmother’s ring.

Example using Dash

  • As Rohan passed by near his grandmother, something caught his eye. It was the sparkle of — the diamond of her grandmother’s ring.

Using Dashes as parentheses

Parentheses ‘()’ is used for putting up explanations or adding some extra information in the sentences. So dashes can be used to replace the parentheses in the sentences.

Example with parentheses

  • Sachin Tendulkar (who has lived in our town for 10 years) is one of the best Indian Cricketers.

Example with dash

  • Sachin Tendulkar — who has lived in our town for 10 years — is one of the best Indian Cricketers.

Using Dashes to Credit Quotations

One can use an em dash to credit a quotation.

For example

“There used to be a real me, but I had it surgically removed.” — Peter Sellers (1925–1980)

“Name the greatest of all inventors. Accident.” — Mark Twain (1835–1910)

Also, keep in mind, to always use an em dash for crediting a quotation. Don’t use en dash or hyphen for this purpose.

Is using dash good or bad?

The good news is that dashes can be used to replace colon, semicolon, and ellipsis.

Whereas bad news is that using dashes every time doesn’t look good. It will not let you showcase your grammar skills and also cut down your options for expressing your thoughts.

Special Note on dash

Also, things to keep in mind are as follows:

  • Use a dash when you are unclear about the thing whether to use a colon or semicolon
  • If you need parentheses to stand out, use a dash in place of the brackets

Conclusion

Hence, finally, we have got a basic idea about what is dahs and when to use a dash in a sentence. Any doubt, please let us know!

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