Posts Tagged ‘ em dash ’

Punctuating Side Comments: Comma, Em Dash, and Parentheses

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The dominatrix, a silver fox in a leather dress, kicked me and told me to beg for more.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or dashes in the example above. It would look like this:

The dominatrix–a silver fox in a leather dress–kicked me and told me to beg for more.

The dominatrix (a silver fox in a leather dress) kicked me and told me to beg for more.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break, That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The dominatrix, a silver fox in a leather dress, kicked me and told me to beg for more.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The dominatrix–indicating her dominance with a whip and spiked heels–kicked me and told me to beg for more.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not  as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The dominatrix (we’d seen her here before dressed as a slave) kicked me and told me to beg for more.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Sessions, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Session today and watch your writing project explode!

The Business of Side Talk: Comma, Em Dash, and Parentheses

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The order, 150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs, should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or em dash in the example above. It would look like this:

The order–150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs–should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

The order (150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs) should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em-dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break. That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The order, 150 silicone dildos and 75 butt plugs, should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The order–unless you want it to be our last order–should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The order (attached) should be delivered before Valentine’s Day since our customers buy sex toys as gifts.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Sessions, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Session today and watch your writing project explode!

Academic Asides: Parentheses, Dashes, or Commas?

You probably know you should set off parenthetical expressions with a comma, as in this example:

The participants, 300 women who ejaculate with orgasm, agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

But what about parentheses? It’s called a parenthetical expression after all! Can we set off the same parenthetical expression within parentheses? And what about dashes? What’s the difference?

Sure, you could go ahead and use parentheses or dashes in the example above. It would look like this:

The participants (300 women who ejaculate with orgasm) agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

The participants–300 women who ejaculate with orgasm–agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

But it wouldn’t be quite right. Commas, parentheses, and em dashes each have their particular meanings.

Use comma to set off a parenthetical expression that requires only a slight break. That is, the parenthetical expression flows well as part of the greater sentence, as in our original example.

The participants, 300 women who ejaculate with orgasm, agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

Use em dash to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break because it amplifies or explains something or because it is sudden:

The participants–we call them participants rather than subjects–agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

Use parentheses to set off a parenthetical expression that requires a strong break and is not  as closely related to the rest of the sentence:

The participants (further described below) agreed to an electronic chat interview and a videotaped masturbation session.

You can use all of these punctuation marks to set apart parenthetical expressions in your writing. Ask yourself, does this expression flow with the rest of the sentence? (Use comma.) Does it add sudden amplification? (Use em dash.) Or is it not very closely related to the rest of the sentence? (Use parentheses.)

The Sexy Grammarian offers Free Sexy Grammar Lessons as well as Private Lessons, Custom Edits, and Intimate Workshops for all kinds of writers. Get a Free Private Lesson today and watch your writing project explode!

Don’t— Stop . . . Don’t stop! Ellipses and Em Dashes

You already know to end a sentence with a period, and you know the other forms of terminating punctuation too. Use a question mark, also known as an interrogation point, to express a query. Use an exclamation point to show an outcry of excitement or emphasis. These are all valid ways to stop a sentence.

Edie’s feeling agitated and bored.

Will Trixie come to her rescue?

Trixie and Edie are at it again!

But sometimes a sentence trails off or gets interrupted, and we have to end it in a different way. Lots of people use ellipses and em dashes incorrectly though the rules are easy.

Use ellipses points to tell the reader that the speaker’s speech is faltering or to emphasize that you have deliberately left something out.

Trixie’s eyes wandered over Edie’s exposed breasts, down her trembling belly, and finally focused . . .

Think of ellipses as the literary French film tilt, when the lovers reach for each other across the pillow and the camera angle flies up to the ceiling, implying that sex ensues.

Ellipses can also show a speaker’s stutter, as in the next example.

“I’m . . . I’m not sure . . . what I want . . . ” Edie whispered.

Ellipses should have a space before the first period, after the last, and one between each of the three periods like this “ . . . ”  Space those dots out rather than shoving them together.

The em dash expresses interruptions in the flow of a sentence, somebody literally interrupting someone else in dialogue or an additional thought that interrupts the action.

“Oh, Trixie,” said Edie. “If you don’t stop—”

Trixie caught Edie’s lips in a rough kiss—she loved Edie’s lips—interrupting her.

Create an em dash in most word processing software by placing two dashes between two words with no spaces on either side—like that.  The software should automatically turn the two dashes into one for you.

What is Sexy Grammar?

Sexy Grammar is a lot of things. It’s the fun way I present writing tools and grammar guidelines like this one. But it’s also a philosophy—that writing and art satisfy a human urge to create, not unlike sex. Sexy Grammar is about letting your inner writer be sexy—turned on, engaged, and unapologetic. When you do that, your writing gets sexy, and that attracts readers.

Good Grammar in Takedown Scenes

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Dear Sexy Grammarian:

I know I’d offered to write a guest column on this topic, but I’m
noticing you recently entertained a reader question and thought I’d
submit this instead.  Hope it’s not too racy for your blog. Continue reading