Dashes with other punctuation

So, I'm wondering if the following examples would be permissible? With regards to the punctuation, I mean; in terms of content, they're deplorably lame, but they're just examples to illustrate the punctuation issues! Also, I can't make an en-dash in here, so I've put two hyphens in to represent an en-dash (in preference to an em-dash).

1) He chose the challenge -- the adventure, and he would live to regret it.

Is this permissible or must there be an closing dash with no comma.

2) He chose the challenge -- the adventure; he would live to regret it.

Is that permissible? It would surely be if a full stop were chosen instead of a semicolon.

Additional question: If you choose to use an em-dash, may one still have spaces at either side or is there some strict rule forbidding it? I know it is probably common not to have the spaces, which is one of the reasons I prefer to use the option with the en-dash.

Comments

  • No takers?

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited November 4

    Publishers and publications usually have their own prescriptive in-house rules for the use of dashes, but the easiest thing is to leave it to the editors.

    Personally, I use dashes freely in the sort of written style that I feel suitable for online postings, emails etc. So I'd never mix a dash with a formal semi-colon as in your (2). As for the comma in (1), in this style I'd use a full stop, and begin the next sentence with And.

    Another thing I prefer personally is to separate with two dashes, so I'd change your (1) to

    He chose the challenge — the adventure — and he would live to regret it.

    I like white space, so I personally have spaces either side of the dash. There may be a rule to the contrary, but I don't care.

    Since writing this, I've consulted David Crystal's descriptive (and highly readable) book on punctuation:

    He reports some early prescriptive obsessions such as the difference between a hyphen and an en-dash.
    (I never knew there was one.)

    In the nineteenth century, printers settled on the standard en and em measurements, symbols and terminology.

    Crystal reports three uses for en

    • to mark a range such as January–March, 3–5pm, London–Holyhead, Chapters 16–18
    • to mark coordination such as the Smith–Jones series, the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the North America–Eurasia tectonic plate
    • to mark contrasting positions such as 3–1 to Liverpool, the England–France match, the Ali–Frazier fight

    This is of no interest to me with my informal writing style, but I understand that you produce professional technical translations. So perhaps you should be substituting en dashes for some hyphens before publication.

    Crystal reports a history of efforts to avoid — largely non-existent — ambiguities by maintaining a strict distinction between hyphens and en dashes.

    Things then got out of hand, and the rules became increasingly complex and artificial. It wasn't long before wholly imaginary ambiguities were being cited to justify the distinction, such as the insistence on using an en dash after a prefix before hyphenated word, as in non–English-speaking peoples. Most of these recommendations now seem to be generally disregarded, but some style guides do still include them, and there is a great deal of variation is what counts as 'correct practice'.

    Much more interesting is the use of em dashes, and how they correspond to alternative uses of commas and round brackets. More on this in a future post.

  • Publishers and publications usually have their own prescriptive in-house rules for the use of dashes, but the easiest thing is to leave it to the editors.

    Personally, I use dashes freely in the sort of written style that I feel suitable for online postings, emails etc. So I'd never mix a dash with a formal semi-colon as in your (2). As for the comma in (1), in this style I'd use a full stop, and begin the next sentence with And.

    Another thing I prefer personally is to separate with two dashes, so I'd change your (1) to

    He chose the challenge — the adventure — and he would live to regret it.

    I like white space, so I personally have spaces either side of the dash. There may be a rule to the contrary, but I don't care.

  • This was a part-duplicate that I couldn't delete.

  • I've just realised that I posted a link to the wrong David Crystal book. His punctuation book is:

  • David Crystal identifies the em dash as 'one of the main ways of showing an included unit in a sentence.

    On the form of its use, he offers

    an example—short though it is— of an em dash

    an example – short though it is – of a space-em-space dash

    The 'solid' use is out of favour. As I said, I personally prefer space-em-space, but Crystal prefers and uses space-en-space.

    As to use, with short sentences there's relatively little difference between:

    The editor, David Jones, said he would make a decision soon.

    The editor (David Jones) said he would make a decision soon.

    The editor – David Jones – said he would make a decision soon.

    As the sentences get longer, the advantage of em dashes becomes apparent

    The editor, who was appointed by the board in January, with the specific role of introducing the policy to a younger online readership, said he would make a decision soon.

    The editor – who was appointed by the board in January, with the specific role of introducing the policy to a younger online readership – said he would make a decision soon.

    If the included unit is itself a sentence, the comma option is not available.

    The editor –he was appointed by the board in January – said he would make a decision soon.

    The editor (he was appointed by the board in January) said he would make a decision soon.

    But what — if anything — is the difference? Crystal judges that if em dashes are used

    They convey an informal impression as if the addition were an impromptu remark. They capture a dynamic movement that is missing with round brackets.

    He quotes from the published text of Tom Stoppard's play Rosencranta and Guilderstern Are Dead, and shows how less satisfactory it would be with round brackets.

    I had an actor once who was condemned to hang for stealing a sheep – or a lamb, I forget which – so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play – had to change the plot a bit but I thought it would be effective – and you wouldn't believe it, he just wasn't convincing!

    I had an actor once who was condemned to hang for stealing a sheep (or a lamb, I forget which) so I got permission to have him hanged in the middle of a play (had to change the plot a bit but I thought it would be effective) and you wouldn't believe it, he just wasn't convincing!

  • @norwegianblue, it's not impossible to type en and em dashes — whatever your computer or operating system. There are lots pf web pages offering solutions. I suggest this Wikipedia entry, as it's liable to be corrected and updated.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_make_dashes

  • Thank so much for your replies, @DavidCrosbie.

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