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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Dashes

Em Dash: What Is an Em Dash?

Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at 6:00 am

The em dash in American English is a punctuation mark that helps to convey emphasis, introduction, interruption, or a swift change of thought. In doing so, the em dash acts similarly to commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses. In formal writing, an em dash is the width of an m and longer than both a hyphen and an …

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How to Use Dashes in Sentences

Posted on Thursday, May 13, 2021, at 6:00 am

The en dash and the em dash offer different functions for punctuation. They also have different ways they can be made using a keyboard. In this brief discussion, we’ll review common uses of the en dash and the em dash as well as methods for forming them with your keyboard. En Dash An en dash …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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Staying on Target with Ranges

Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, at 11:00 pm

Writing often brings us to spots in sentences where we need to convey the extent of something, such as locations, distances, or durations. Most of these constructions will include between or from. The question then becomes how to be grammatically correct in connecting the range being specified. For example, we wish to communicate where to find a bakery, …

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Hyphenated Compound Words

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2018, at 11:00 pm

It's enough to drive even the most exacting writers, proofers, and editors a little batty sometimes: More than one descriptive word precedes a noun, forming what we call a compound modifier. Do we need to hyphenate the words, or are they well enough left alone? What if we have two words modifying another word and all three …

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Writing Dates and Times

Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at 8:54 am

Rule: The following examples apply when using dates: The meeting is scheduled for June 30. The meeting is scheduled for the 30th of June. We have had tricks played on us on April 1. The 1st of April puts some people on edge. (Some prefer to write it out: The first of April) Rule: There …

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Comma Chameleon

Posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, at 11:28 am

I realize that on the grand scale of interesting things, punctuation is pretty far down the list. (In a recent survey, it was in a dead heat with stovepipes, just behind pocket lint.) Punctuation is a dying art. I’m not sure whether this is the writers’ or the readers’ fault, but I mostly blame the …

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Copy Editors Are People Too

Posted on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at 9:38 am

There can’t be many books about the life and adventures of a professional word doctor, but one that came out in 2015 is definitely worth a look. It’s Between You and Me, by Mary Norris, a longtime New Yorker copy editor who calls herself a “comma queen.” Norris admits that the book’s very title is a grammar lesson: …

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Punctuation or Chaos

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 9:43 am

She said I saved the company No one knows for sure what the above sentence means. It consists of six everyday words, and the first five are monosyllables, yet this simple declarative sentence has at least three quite different meanings—maybe more, because with no period on the end, the reader can’t even be sure the …

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En Dash: What Is an En Dash?

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 3:40 pm

When a compound adjective precedes a noun it is describing, we often need a hyphen: prize-winning recipe, twentieth-century literature. If a compound adjective comprises more than two words, we use as many hyphens as are needed: a three-day-old newspaper, a long-in-the-tooth baseball manager. Try however to punctuate the compound adjectives including proper nouns in these phrases: a …

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