Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A. Here’s the problem:
Dashes are without doubt my favorite marks of punctuation—they’re remarkably versative and allow me to insert one thought inside another—but few of you have any clue how to use them.

B. What to do:
I quote Strunk & White (9): “Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption, and to announce a long appositive or summary. A dash is. . . stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses.” (N.B. To make a dash, type option-shift-hyphen with no spaces before or after.)

C. Example: Wharton’s New York is a place where pretending to be a model of rectitude (i.e. Lawrence Lefferts, etc) gives one the power to condemn.

Corrected Version: Wharton’s New York is a place where pretending to be a model of rectitude—Lawrence Lefferts is one example—gives one the power to condemn.

D. Now you try—write a corrected version of the following sentence.
1. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth despite her lower standing illuminates another part of Darcy’s character; his desire for a companion of both equality and beauty, regardless of wealth.

E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources:
Strunk & White, p. 9 (http://www.bartleby.com/141/ )

F. Finally, here are two all-too-infrequent uses of dashes from students’ papers.

1. Darcy is the last person she would consider marrying, but her response is—to modern sensibilities, at least—relatively mild.
2. Archer’s last decision—to hold his relationship with Ellen only as a memory—is perhaps Wharton’s final comment on the power of his world.