Teach and Learn English


DASH is a punctuation mark. Yet another one in a row – however – it should deserve some more highlighting and attention since it is not even present as default on our keyboards nowadays – you need to be a little more investigative to find it! Look! I have already used it three times! Apart from my favourite emotional exclamation mark – it has been of so much use here today! Now I definitely owe it full coverage :) Let's start then!

BTW – to all of you wondering what the hell I am writing about today - here's a small tip – DASH is MYŚLNIK, but we will come back to that later...

A few facts:

  • DASHES are used to separate or connect phrases and sentences:
He was I still can't believe this trying to steal her purse.

Dashes are here used in the same way as brackets:

He was (I still can't believe this) trying to steal her purse.

Some grammarians like Michael Swan – for instance – say that "(dashes) can be used in the same way as colons, semi-colons or brackets." There are also authors like Lynne Truss - who notice that there is a slight difference between a double dash and brackets - dashes connect the 'separated' phrase with the sentence more, while brackets seem to suppress it more.

  • there are two types of dashes:
(which I have used everywhere today;)
EN because it is shorter like letter N

MAC keyboard: PRESS ALT+hyphen
PC: PRESS ALT+0150 (use the numeric board on your right only!)

(which has become a little less popular these days—some grammarians say that it is due to the fact that it looks a little heavy in comparison with en dash)
EM because it is longer like letter M

MAC keyboard: PRESS ALT+SHIFT+hyphen
PC: PRESS ALT+0151 (use the numeric board on your right only!)

The difference in usage is becoming more and more blurred these days and more often they are used interchangebly:
Tom – who is our neighbour – looks really well these days.
Tom—who is our neighbour—looks really well these days.

  • the word DASH has got the same roots as the verb TO DASH and it derives from Middle English verb DASSHEN which means 'to break, to knock'
  •  DASH is very often used in poetry because it introduces a special type of suspence, an afterthought, something unexpected or surprising, silence or whisper:
He learned the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress – or a nunnery.
Byron, Don Juan

Emily Dickinson was almost notorious for her dashes, which – among other things – made her poetry so special:

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me –  
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –  
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – 

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –  
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –  
We passed the Setting Sun – 

Or rather – He passed us – 
The Dews drew quivering and chill – 
For only Gossamer, my Gown – 
My Tippet – only Tulle – 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground – 

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads 
Were toward Eternity – 

  • and last but not least - there is an idiom with DASH:
TO CUT A DASH means to look very elegant andattractive in the clothes you are wearing
He really cut a dash in his new suit!

 To be continued...


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