The Em Dash?

I was an English major. I was a Technical Writing minor. I took grammar classes and diagrammed sentences for fun.

And yet I’m still learning things every day. 

For instance, did you know the difference between a hyphen and a dash? If you answered yes, did you know that there are four different kinds of hyphens/dashes regularly used in printed text? That’s right – five.

When someone first asked me about “em dashes,” I played along. “Yes. Sure. Of course I know what that is! I’ll make sure to double checks all of the…uh…m hyphens.”

I can laugh about it now, but that one conversation sent me on a frantic hour-long googling session. Here’s what I found out.


According to CSM, these are all the kinds of hyphens/dashes:

Hyphen –

En dash —

Em dash —

2-em dash—-

3-em dash——

And they all have specific purposes!


It suddenly occurred to me—Commas. Ellipses. Spaces. Numbers. Basic grammar. Did I know anything?

It turns out that CSM isn’t all that different from MLA, but I had to break a sweat discovering that. And it was…reassuring…to know that I’m not done learning. It feels like I just finished college yesterday. I don’t think I ever felt that “I’ve got the world on a string,” feeling as a post-graduate, but I’m sure many people have.

News flash! We never stop learning. If we do, then something is wrong.


Could I get through school with out knowing that? Yes.

Can I have this job without knowing that? Apparently not.

Do I now add proofreading marks and word comments to my personal writing? Yup. (It’s kinda scary and yet oddly satisfying to have a conversation with myself like I have with the Press’ authors.)

Will I  still keep learning? You betcha!

Who’s with me?

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