Just a dash! Em-dashes, En-dashes, and hyphens in Buddhist Texts

This is a place to post articles and have discussions of the most misunderstood of all punctuation.

It’s a wiki, so please edit this post with more info.


The correct way

Em-dash has two—and only two—legitimate uses, as is acknowledged by all punctuational pedants. Well, by me anyway. Well by me right now, who knows what I’ll say tomorrow.

  • To create a dramatic pause setting aside a concluding word or phrase that is marked for special or contrary emphasis. In this use it is similar to a colon. Start by using a colon, but make it an em-dash if you find that it needs to go up to eleven. It’s like a colon in a tutu.
  • To set aside a phrase internal to the sentence—like this—that is more distinctly separate than it would be using commas. It’s like commas with social distancing.

It also has an illegitimate use—I guess—or does it—where it acts as a—kind of glitch or stutter in text that is meant to be disjointed.

In no some cases an em-dash will take a space on either side. It’s wide enough. It depends on the typeface and publishing context: newspapers — and some digital publishing platforms based on the newspaper style or featuring truly awful typefaces — will expect spaces. However, spaces will look weird in any well-designed typeface (like this one: see above). A prudent em-dasher, knowing what really matters, would of course avoid such disreputable publishers.


If you’re Emily Dickinson, you can do what you want.


OK, so if people are going to modify the original post using first person, then I need to be removed as the original creator.

If the text has been copied from some where, then it needs to be attributed.

I had thought that the op could be a list of off site articles and then in the thread people could discuss. But maybe that misses the poiint. In any case, no first person, please. :slight_smile: And when quoting, please attribute. Maybe. I guess?

Oh, we’re serious are we? I didn’t realize!

But it’s a wiki, change what you want.


Of course I’m serious—deadly.

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Canadian legal transcripts use em-dashes for stuttering, and they have spaces at either side. After all, you get paid by the page :wink:.


I feel mildly disappointed that no-one has commented on the phrase “colon in a tutu”. :slightly_frowning_face:

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Fwiw my sister (a professional translator and editor) laughed out loud at that when I forwarded it to her :slightly_smiling_face:


Of a colon in a tutu
He’s not strange
He just wants to live his life this way

Perhaps a colon that is a bit of a drama queen? Or with an inflaited sense of self worth?


Aww, so sweet, I feel much better now. :heart_eyes:


Some advanced usage for consideration:

When using an em-dash for dramatic pause, if you wish to instill additional suspense into the heart of the gentle reader, combine two or more em-dashes———like so. If you are running low on em-dashes, you can use three or more hyphens in the place of one em-dash------thusly!

Furthermore, it seems like a contradiction for em-dash itself to use a hyphen, rather than an em-dash. I would propose that em-dash should instead be rendered in the more typographically advanced form em—dash.