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Center For Academic Excellence

CAE | Dashes

Most people use dashes when they are just dashing things off; dashes, however, should be used with consideration. Dashes tell readers that additional information or explanatory information is about to appear.

Type a dash as two hyphens in a row with no spaces before or after. If your word processing program has what is known as an "em-dash," you may use it instead with no spaces before or after it.

1. Use a dash to emphasize a definition, a dramatic statement, a personal comment, or an explanation.

Example: Occupational therapy--therapy prescribed by a physician to promote recovery and rehabilitation as well as to improve the patient's overall quality of life--is a growing and exciting field.

2. Use a dash to emphasize a list.

Example: Although I have so many things to study this weekend--microbiology, gross anatomy, and histology--the only thing I want to do is sleep.


Use dashes carefully, not only because they are somewhat informal but also because they can cause an abrupt break in reading. Too many of them create a jerky, disconnected effect that can make it hard for readers to follow your thoughts.

Developed by
Jennie Ariail, Ph.D. - Director
Tom Waldrep, Ph.D. - Director (retired)

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