The Dash

Bill and I are in Falmouth, MA, this morning on Cape Cod, enjoying a little down time. The Massachusetts reporting group had a great convention this weekend, and I was privileged to be a part of it. I did my two sessions on the dash and colon; so I am going to repeat it here over the next few days.

The dash in reporting is "space, hyphen, hyphen, space." We started this in the days when we had only a typewriter and did not have the em dash, the "long" dash, on our equipment. And this is one dash, not "dashes." To say, "dashes" or "dash, dash" in referring to one instance of the dash is simply inaccurate.

There are three reasons for using a dash. The first is the most commonly used but is often thought of in too narrow a sense. The dash is used to show that a sentence got started but did not get finished. (It is not just for an "interruption.") The rule reads "The dash is used for broken sentence structure."

If a sentence gets started and doesn't get completed for any reason, use the dash.

...I do not have -- have enough of it -- of the cream to last -- to make it to my next appointment.

... Q Were you ready to --
A Yes.
Q -- go with them?

...The shirt that you say you were wearing that morning -- was that shirt the one I am holding here?

In the first instance, the person interrupted himself; in the second, the witness interrupted the attorney, who just kept talking; in the third, the person did not finish the first thought and started over with a question that contains a "renaming" of the first thought.

Check in later this week for further discussion on the dash.

Happy punctuating!