If you ever wondered when do you use the long dash (—) instead of the short one (-) then this post is going to clarify a bit for you.
In short, the short dash is called the hyphen.
While the long dash, also called the em dash, is used when you want to expand on a sentence for clarification.
There's one thing I hate on the McDonald's menu—double cheeseburger.
Sometimes we add clarification at the end of a sentence in a parenthesis.
After three weeks on set, the cast was fed up with his direction (or, rather, lack of direction).
If you think ending a sentence with parenthesis looks a bit clunky, you can replace it with the dash.
After three weeks on set, the cast was fed up with his direction—or, rather, lack of direction.
You can also add dash in the middle of a sentence:
Molly (David's adopted beagle) just chewed away the sofa.
Molly, David's adopted beagle, just chewed away the sofa.
Molly—David's adopted beagle—just chewed away the sofa.
Of the three sentences above, the third one (with the dash) stands out the most. So whenever you're writing clarifications in the middle of the sentence and you want to put emphasis on it, use the dash.
A couple notes though:
- There's no space before and after the dash
- Use the dash sparingly. Avoid using it more than once in a sentence, it'll make the sentence hard to read.
- You can type the long dash with Ctrl+Alt+Minus (on Windows) and option+shift+minus (on Mac).