Writing for Business

Oct 2 2012   9:03PM GMT

Do you put spaces around em dashes?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
1. Vendors—including Apple, Google and Microsoft—all have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

2. Vendors — including Apple, Google and Microsoft — usually have their own versions of auto-correct programs and, as a result, their own particular auto-correct fails.

Answer: 1.

In today’s post, I’m learning right along with some of you. As you may or may not know, I’m not really a grammarian—I just play one on the Internet. I realized only recently, though, that I’d also been playing fast and loose with my punctuation. Yes, I remember as if it were only last week… it was Punctuation Day and a number of people had tweeted about en dashes and em dashes. I thought to myself, well, as a fake grammarian, I really should at least know that I’m using these correctly. Turns out I wasn’t. Although Word helpfully converts two hyphens typed together (which is what I was using) into an em dash, em dashes are correctly used without spaces and I had been using them—quite freely, I might add—with spaces either side. I know better now!

CuteWriting explains the uses of hyphens, en dashes and em dashes.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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