The Dash (— or --) The dash is a versatile punctuation mark. It can function as a semicolon, colon, or comma within a sentence; however, the dash’s flexibility also makes it a liability if used too frequently. Dashes are often used to connect additional comments to sentence or to introduce a list.
Examples:Ex. 1 connecting a series (list) of words or phrases James was a handsome looking man—tall, strong and rugged. Tall, strong and rugged—James was a handsome looking man. Mark Twain—funny, rebellious and spirited—is my favorite author. I had a million chores to do at home—wash the dishes, make the bed, clean the countertops, vacuum the living room, and mop the kitchen floor.Ex. 2 adding comments or extra information Jenny—the prettiest girl in the world!—called me today. Henry James—is he the author of The Golden Bowl?—is on the test tomorrow. Jack Kerouac—he is the author of On The Road—wrote many great books. I was startled out of bed by my alarm and landed on the floor—a terrible start to the day.Ex. 3 indicating faltering speech I—I—think I saw a—a—ghost.
Colon (:)Ex. 1 to offer a definition Jive talk: an English dialect or “slang” used by the Beat Generation in the 1950s.Ex. 2 to rephrase the sentence The room was unfathomably dark: a darkness that could seemingly swallow even the brightest light.Ex. 3 to introduce a list My niece has four favorite colors: red, green, blue, and yellow.Ex. 4 introduce a quote Martin Luther King believes that civil disobedience only works when demonstrators accept the punishment of violating the law: “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty” (602).
Semicolons (;) Semicolons are common punctuation marks. They have the ability to connect independent clauses together, but they are also used to connect items in a formal list.
ExamplesEx. 1 connecting sentences -Hamlet is a tragic character; he is perhaps the most tragic in all of literature.Ex. 2 a formal list -Jack Kerouac wrote some of the finest novels of 40s and 50s: On The Road, 1957; The Dharma Bums, 1958; Doctor Sax, 1959; Visions of Cody, 1959; Tristessa, 1960; Big Sur, 1962; and Vanity of Duluoz, 1968. Or Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road, 1957; The Dharma Bums, 1958; Doctor Sax, 1959; Visions of Cody, 1959; Tristessa, 1960; Big Sur, 1962; and Vanity of Duluoz, 1968.
Example of Semicolons ina Complex List“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that theNegro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedomis not the White Citizens Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner,but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is theabsence of tension to a positive peace which is the presenceof justice, who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goalyou seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of directaction’; who paternalistically believes he can set thetimetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by amythical concept of time and who constantly advises theNegro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’” (603). -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”