One of the finer points of punctuation is the use of dashes. In casual writing, we often use them willy-nilly, but when you are writing nonfiction for publication, take care to use them properly.
Fiction writers only need concern themselves with one kind of dash. They will rarely have use for the other. But nonfiction writers need to understand the differences and when to use them.
The first and most common dash is the em dash—so called because in a proportional font it’s about the same width as the letter M. There’s one in the previous sentence. The em dash is used in nonfiction much as it is in fiction: for an abrupt break that’s not suitable for other punctuation. Continue reading