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    Default Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Now I know that there is such as thing as Google, however I can't find any information on my issue.

    Generally em-dashes replace commas, but what about when adding additional information in a list?

    Example: Fitzgerald uses Gatsby as a tragic parody of the American Dream through his lost love--Daisy--, rise to wealth, corruption, and reception by his peers.

    Or later on: The green light in which Gatsby believed in for so long stands for several things--Daisy, love, acceptance, wealth--; but now that Gatsby is gone it seems to no longer have any significance.


    Tl;dr: how do I use em-dashes in the middle of a list?
    Last edited by Arranis Thelmos; 2012-11-14 at 11:39 AM.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    I don't see the dashes are needed in either example sentence.

    "Fitzgerald uses Gatsby as a tragic parody of the American Dream through his lost love Daisy, rise to wealth, corruption, and reception by his peers." makes perfect sense with no em-dashes at all.

    "The green light in which Gatsby believed in for so long stands for several things--Daisy, love, acceptance, wealth; but now that Gatsby is gone it seems to no longer have any significance." works fine without the em-dash in front of the semi-colon.

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Great, thank you very much!
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering DM; to the last I argue with thee; from hell’s heart I slay catgirls at thee; for Galgenhumor’s sake I spit my last snark at thee. Sink all Sues and all katanas to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still gaming with thee, though ticked at thee, thou damned DM! Thus, I give up the logic!"

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    People using two hyphens instead of an em-dash fills me with great and mighty typographic rage. — ←Here's an em dash. The next time you need one, copy that one. If anyone told you that using two hyphens is an acceptable replacement, they were lying to you.
    Quote Originally Posted by JaronK View Post
    Frankly, a Wizard can suck even more than a Fighter could ever dream of sucking. A Fighter can stab himself to death, but only a Wizard could Plane Shift to some horrible far realm to be tortured for an eternity of insanity.


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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    It fixes it automatically when I'm in a proper word browser, so I'm not too terribly worried. Why aren't two hyphens an acceptable replacement? All the English teachers I've had said it was.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering DM; to the last I argue with thee; from hell’s heart I slay catgirls at thee; for Galgenhumor’s sake I spit my last snark at thee. Sink all Sues and all katanas to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still gaming with thee, though ticked at thee, thou damned DM! Thus, I give up the logic!"

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    That's because English teachers are only the second most unreasonable about proper punctuation. Typographers come in at a solid number 1.
    Quote Originally Posted by JaronK View Post
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    People using two hyphens instead of an em-dash fills me with great and mighty typographic rage. — ←Here's an em dash. The next time you need one, copy that one. If anyone told you that using two hyphens is an acceptable replacement, they were lying to you.
    In informal writing--a forum post or an e-mail, for example--two hypens are fine. It is only in formal writing that the actual em-dash is required. It's simply because many writers like using em-dashes, and keyboard designers, for some strange reason, did not include it on the keyboard. I suppose that's when you let computer scientists--and not writers--decide key placement .

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    ...with humility directed to Flickerdart...

    The solid em-dash line is best used in formal letters and important, professional, matters. Scientific papers are one possibility.

    For my-self, I find the double-dash to be more clear ( especially to those who are not familiar with English punctuation; non-Anglican speakers and typers, for example ). Please under-stand, Arranis, the reason why the em-dash exists is because it was meant to be used instead of adding yet-another-comma. So while commas and em-dashes can be used in a single sentence, they should not be used right next to each other. It's a challenge to the typer to find a way to make it work.
    Last edited by Story Time; 2012-11-14 at 02:39 PM. Reason: Correcting An Identification Error

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    • Hold the Alt key down
    • Type 196 on the numeric key pad
    • Release the Alt key


    Result: em─dash
    Last edited by nedz; 2012-11-14 at 02:49 PM.
    p = 4
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Alt+196 is actually a character for drawing boxes (─).

    The correct input for the em-dash is Alt+0151 (—), at least on Windows. It's longer and a bit higher than the box line.

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    That's because English teachers are only the second most unreasonable about proper punctuation. Typographers come in at a solid number 1.
    And woe unto those who confuse fonts with typefaces.

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    So the use of them em-dash ( — ) is to work like an aside? I thought that was the en-dash ( – ), and the em-dash was for such things as when someone is suddenly cut off while speaking?

    Note I only found out what these were called, and that they actually did have specific uses other than aesthetic, about a week ago.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    What I really want to know about the em-dash, is why is there no dedicated key for it on any keyboard I've ever seen? We have these |{}~ but unless the word processor has an auto fix for "--" it's irritating to work around.

    I'm no fan of the numeric keypad for anything other than ten-key and gaming, and certainly not for things that I use in the middle of normal typing. (I'd be happy to have a "compose" key on my keyboard if it meant I could type in —, þ, Æ, Đ, Ø, Å normally. Maybe it could replace the Windows key, which is mostly useless.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Lack of [identified] demand.

    (The following is Windows specific, but other OSs will be similar)
    The codes generated by the hardware are mapped by the OS by a table. If you were to set your keyboard to French, say, via the control panel then QWERTY would map to AZERTY etc. If you experiment with the Alt Gr key then you will be able to generate less used keys, depending upon the table you selected. E.g. Alt GR 4 generates € on a UK keyboard.

    Each application can over-ride this in its own message table, so its no use blaming MS ─ though developers rarely change this, except for function keys, because of standardisation.

    So it can be easily done ─ though not usually by the user.
    p = 4
    Consider a 5' radius blast: this affects 4 squares which have a circumference of 40' — Actually it's worse than that.


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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Winter_Wolf View Post
    What I really want to know about the em-dash, is why is there no dedicated key for it on any keyboard I've ever seen? We have these |{}~ but unless the word processor has an auto fix for "--" it's irritating to work around.

    I'm no fan of the numeric keypad for anything other than ten-key and gaming, and certainly not for things that I use in the middle of normal typing. (I'd be happy to have a "compose" key on my keyboard if it meant I could type in —, þ, Æ, Đ, Ø, Å normally. Maybe it could replace the Windows key, which is mostly useless.
    Another problem with the numeric keypad is laptop users do not have one.

    Perhaps the strangest aspect of the keyboard is the semicolon's location. Why does it get the prime real estate of a home key? Maybe it should swap places with the period or comma?

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    If it helps, this is what Strunk & White says:



    8. Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary.

    A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses.

    His first thought on getting out of bed — if he had any thought at all — was to get back in again.


    The rear axle began to make a noise — a grinding, chattering, teeth-gritting rasp.

    The increasing reluctance of the sun to rise, the extra nip in the breeze, the patter of shed leaves dropping — all the evidences of fall drifting into winter were clearer each day.


    Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate.

    Her father's suspicions proved well-founded — it was not Edward she cared for — it was San Francisco.


    Her father's suspicions proved well- founded. It was not Edward she cared for, it was San Francisco.

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    Last edited by Kindablue; 2012-11-14 at 09:07 PM.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    So it can be easily done ─ though not usually by the user.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by nedz View Post
    Lack of [identified] demand.

    (The following is Windows specific, but other OSs will be similar)
    The codes generated by the hardware are mapped by the OS by a table. If you were to set your keyboard to French, say, via the control panel then QWERTY would map to AZERTY etc. If you experiment with the Alt Gr key then you will be able to generate less used keys, depending upon the table you selected. E.g. Alt GR 4 generates € on a UK keyboard.

    Each application can over-ride this in its own message table, so its no use blaming MS ─ though developers rarely change this, except for function keys, because of standardisation.

    So it can be easily done ─ though not usually by the user.
    You could not use the numeric key pad. You might not use it but it is used allot by anyone working with numbers, which is allot more people than use obscure things like em-dash (something I have never hear of until today)
    Last edited by GnomeFighter; 2012-11-15 at 07:55 AM.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas


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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Is that what they're called? I use dashes a fair bit to sort of interrupt myself in the middle of a sentence - an aside or digression, if you will, often with a clarification on some small point - before continuing it on. I have no idea whether it's correct, but it feels natural and sensical to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy13a View Post
    Another problem with the numeric keypad is laptop users do not have one.

    Perhaps the strangest aspect of the keyboard is the semicolon's location. Why does it get the prime real estate of a home key? Maybe it should swap places with the period or comma?
    I think its placement is wholly justified; the semicolon can clearly be used in place of any other punctuation mark.

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine View Post
    Is that what they're called?
    There are two types of dashes used in typography--the en-dash, which is the shorter one most people use to separate compound words, and the em-dash, which is a longer one used to separate parts of sentences. (I used both in that sentence, I just noticed...wasn't intentional, honest!).

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by snoopy13a View Post
    Another problem with the numeric keypad is laptop users do not have one.

    Perhaps the strangest aspect of the keyboard is the semicolon's location. Why does it get the prime real estate of a home key? Maybe it should swap places with the period or comma?
    I can't say if this is the actual reason but when programming in most languages, prominently C and derivatives, the semicolon is needed at the end of near every line. It's the same for stuff like {,}, and |.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Dumbledore lives View Post
    I can't say if this is the actual reason but when programming in most languages, prominently C and derivatives, the semicolon is needed at the end of near every line. It's the same for stuff like {,}, and |.
    It isn't the reason--just do a search for pictures of old mechanical typewriter keyboard layouts, which obviously pre-date any requirement to accommodate programming languages, and you'll find that the key to the right of L has always traditionally been the colon and semi-colon. No idea why that's actually the case, mind you, it just *is*.

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Personally I just use the humble hyphen to serve that purpose - Word auto-corrects to the em dash if it's surrounded by spaces, but a single hyphen works perfectly fine for me.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by Heliomance View Post
    Personally I just use the humble hyphen to serve that purpose - Word auto-corrects to the em dash if it's surrounded by spaces, but a single hyphen works perfectly fine for me.
    True, Word does, but a lot of other programs don't. And no, not everyone has or uses Word, despite it being the Big Dog. I don't know if my Dell keyboard is actually a US standard 104-key keyboard, but I have TWO of the following: Alt key, Windows Key (really, 2 of them?), Ctrl key. I also have a context menu key. Of these, the only one I can understand the possible need for is the right side Ctrl key. Hands up anyone who uses the Windows key so much they'd ever need more than ONE.

    I'd use an em-dash a lot more if I had a dedicated key for it, or at least something that didn't require me to hit five keys to produced it (assuming Alt+0151). The double dash (-- oh, hi there) is kind of a poor substitute, especially when you (well I do anyway) get flack for using it. Then again these are also the same people who should be sent back to remedial English classes to learn how to use a gorram apostrophe.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    It isn't the reason--just do a search for pictures of old mechanical typewriter keyboard layouts, which obviously pre-date any requirement to accommodate programming languages, and you'll find that the key to the right of L has always traditionally been the colon and semi-colon. No idea why that's actually the case, mind you, it just *is*.
    When typewriters were first designed, hitting a key too hard would jam it. So they designed the keyboards so that the most common letters would go with the weaker fingers and the least common letters under the strongest fingers. The location of the semicolon is just an artifact of that.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Okay... Wow...I leave this thing unattended for a few days and it explodes. Nice to know a bit about the history of the keyboard though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkin View Post
    "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering DM; to the last I argue with thee; from hell’s heart I slay catgirls at thee; for Galgenhumor’s sake I spit my last snark at thee. Sink all Sues and all katanas to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still gaming with thee, though ticked at thee, thou damned DM! Thus, I give up the logic!"

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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    There are two types of dashes used in typography--the en-dash, which is the shorter one most people use to separate compound words, and the em-dash, which is a longer one used to separate parts of sentences. (I used both in that sentence, I just noticed...wasn't intentional, honest!).
    And the hyphen, and the minus sign.
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    Default Re: Using em-dashes in conjuction with commas

    In Word you can create an em-dash by holding down ctrl and alt and pressing the minus key on your number pad. Similarly, you can produce an en-dash by holding just ctrl and pressing the minus key on your number pad.

    In RPG publishing, there's three different dashes.

    Hyphen: (-) This guy is the one we're mostly used to, and sits to the right of the zero key. This is used as the dash between compound words, like up in my first paragraph.

    Em-Dash: (—) This one has been pretty well described in this thread. Note that some publishers (again, in the RPG world only - don't know about others) do not want spaces on either side of the em-dash. others specifically do. For example, from kindablue's post:

    His first thought on getting out of bed — if he had any thought at all — was to get back in again.

    Some publishers want those spaces. Others:

    His first thought on getting out of bed—if he had any thought at all—was to get back in again.

    Take 'em right out!

    En-Dash: (–) This little guy is ever so slightly bigger than a hyphen. RPG publishers like it in place of a minus sign, as well as a separator on lists. For example:

    1d20–5

    or

    1–20%: blah blah blah
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