PSLE English

When should you use an em dash?

Notes from the video ‘Diffusion Academy| PSLE English Punctuation |Em dash‘ :

What is an Em Dash?
The Em dash differs from other dashes in both its usage and appearance.

Em dash is named after its length. The width of an Em dash is the same width as the capital letter M.


So… when do we use an Em dash?
You can think of em dash as the Swiss army knife of dashes – it’s unique and it’s versatile.

Em dash can be used for different purposes:

We can use Em Dash to set off a statement that qualifies or explains something. This statement is also called a parenthetical statement because it’s usually in parentheses.


We use parentheses if we want to include the parenthetical content more subtly.
But if we wish to draw attention to the parenthetical content, you should use an Em dash.

Here’s an example:
You are the friend – the only friend – who was there when I needed help.
In this example, we see that we need to use 2 em dashes, one before the parenthetical information and one after it.


We can also use Em Dash as an appositive. An appositive is a word or a word group that clarifies the noun or noun phrase that precedes it.
Appositives are usually offset by commas, but we sometimes use em dashes in cases when the appositive contains one or more commas.
Here’s an example:
The fruits they brought – banana, oranges and grapes – were confiscated.


Em dashes can also be used to bring focus to a list.
We use colons when the sentence ends with a list.

But if the list comes first, we should use an em dash.
Here’s an example:
Running, cycling swimming – there are so many exercises you can do to get in shape.
We hope you learnt when to use an em dash after this video.

Other related content:

Exclamation Mark



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