Post from the past: Using the awesome 'em' dash

This is a re-post of another post from the past.

This rather long post was originally posted on the 26th August, 2009 and talks about the use of one of my favourite punctuation indicators—the ‘em’ dash (see, I just used one there).


I am not a strict grammar and syntax person but there are some regular syntactical errors that writers make over and over that do bother me. One of these involves the use, or, more accurately the non-use or incorrect use of the 'em dash'. So many writers use a hyphen or standard dash (en dash) where an em dash was supposed to be used.

The three most common types of dashes used are:

  • The hyphen (-) [Alt+45].

  • The en dash (–) [Alt+0150, or Ctrl+Num- in Microsoft Office].

  • The em dash (—) [Alt+0151, or Ctrl+Alt+Num- in Microsoft Office].

The basic Hyphen: The hyphen (-) is the shortest of these three dashes. It is technically exactly half the length of the ‘en’ dash in the font being used.

A hyphen is typically used to join words to make a single logical word or to separate syllables of a word, generally for the purposes of word wrapping.

There is no padding space used before or after a hyphen.

On a standard PC keyboard the hyphen is the un-shifted character between the zero (0) and the equals sign (=). On a Windows computer it can also be generated by holding down the Alt key and entering the number 45 on the numeric keypad (written as Alt+45).

Examples of the first use: two-thirds, sub-section, pre-cursor, out-of-body, cul-de-sac, no-holds-barred, corporate-wide, face-to-face, and bail-out.

Second use: With modern day word processing, and with fully justified text (justified left and right margins) falling out of favour, words are rarely hyphenated for wrapping with the exception of newspapers and novels; however examples would be: forbid-ding, Chey-enne, per-haps, feath-ers, and appre-ciate. [Examples taken from John Jakes' novel "Heaven and Hell"]

The Economist Style Guide gives a useful run-down on the correct use of the hyphen.

En dash: The en dash (–) is slightly longer than a hyphen. In a properly constructed font the en dash should be the exact length of the letter ‘n’. Hence the name ‘en’ dash.

The en dash is generally used to indicate a range or to convey the meaning of 'through to'.

Unlike the hyphen and the em dash, an en dash should always be preceded and followed by padding spaces.

For users of Microsoft Office tools (e.g. Word, Excel, etc.,) an en dash can be entered by holding down the Ctrl and Alt keys together and then pressing the numeric keypad hyphen key (above the plus key). On a Windows computer it can also be entered by holding down the Alt key and entering 0150 on the numeric keypad (Alt+0150).

Examples: 100 – 500, 1980 – 2009, and Perth – Bunbury.

Em dash: The em dash (—) is the longest of the three. It should be twice the length of the en dash, which should also be the length of the letter ‘m’ in the font—hence the name ‘em’ dash.

The em dash is probably the most used by writers on the Web, or it would be if they knew this was the dash they intended to use.

Em dashes have three functions. Firstly, an em dash pair can be used to inject a complementary or explanatory thought into a sentence. Secondly, a trailing em dash at the end of a sentence indicates an unfinished statement or thought. Finally, an unpaired em dash can be used to add some final thought or clarifying comment at the end of a sentence.

Almost all style guides indicate that em dashes should be used without padding spaces and this is how I have always used them; however, when I went looking for examples I found that some publishers do use padding spaces around em dashes. I would note however that the local West Australian Newspaper here in Perth uses them correctly, as does the national paper The Australian.

Examples of the first use: (1) 'This fundamental process issue—how to get bureaucracy out of the way—is one that our Human Resources staff are driving.' (2) '… to work closely with people—now partners instead of employees—doing the work'.

Examples of the second use: (1) 'What kind of physician are you—'; (2) 'Look at you! You have let yourself go until you are as soft and as short of wind as an old priest—'. (3) 'It was his Holiness, the abbot of the temple of Osiris—'. [Examples taken from Wilbur Smith's novel "The River God"]

An example of the third use: 'The pieces came together as the result of a strong relationship between the two companies—and between modern technology and manufacturing processes'.

At the copy-editing course I did we were told that the word ‘and’ should never precede an em dash. If you found yourself putting an ‘and’ at the start of a paired em dash then you should probably be using a comma and not an em dash.

[Examples for first and third use are from the book "Business @ the Speed of Thought" by Bill Gates]

Special note on using MS Word: If you use Microsoft Word you can also have an em dash automatically entered by using two hyphens (- -) then as soon as you enter a space (which will happen after the word following the two hyphens), MS Word will automatically replace the two hyphens with an em dash—because it knows an em dash is required there.

Okay . . . this post has gone well over the 500 words (it is 748 up to here) but it was a hard one to trim down.


As I said, I like to use the em dash and find it useful. But some writers don’t believe in the em dash and will not use it.

Will the markets finally hit 6,800 by the end of 2019?

For anyone who listens to—or kind of watches, in the background—either 95Money or ABC24 regularly, then you would have picked up that the financial forecasters are very confident that the Australian ASX200 share market index will finally get back to its pre-GFC level of 6,800 (11 years ago) by the close of this year.

As someone who is on the cusp of ‘retiring’ I very much hope they are right.

As you can see from the chart above, the ASX200 has managed to climb up to 6,167 today (22nd Feb, 2019).

As regular readers would be aware, all of the other ‘western’ markets made it back to their pre-GFC levels five or six years ago and are now well above those levels. But, for whatever reason, the Australian market is struggling badly to claw its way back to its pre-GFC levels.

However, as much I so want the market to get back to pre-GFC levels so my retail superannuation fund increases a bit , I am not getting too excited. This is because the experts have been predicting the Australian market would get back to 6,800 for at least three years now.

Also, there seems to be a lot of financial troubles that would work against our market getting back to 6,800. One of our major trading countries, China, seems to be wagging their ‘naughty naughty’ finger at us—especially in relation to coal and iron ore imports, but also for tourism and student numbers from China. As well, government and personal debt is at levels never seen before. Levels that are three times previous peaks. On top of this, the housing/property market has hit bad times with some forecasters expecting prices in Sydney and Melbourne to drop by a further 20 percent during 2019 and other cities to fall by a further 6 to 10 percent.

Even so, I really would like the market to somehow magically get back to 6,800.

Come on guys. I want to retire.

Repost of my first post back on the 18th of August 2009

Following is a clip of my first posting to this site when I started my blog.


It does not seem possible that I started this blog back in 2009. It will be ten years on the 18th of August this year. If I remember I might have a small party.

Following is the text from that posting:

I thought I might as well commence a blog. Everyone else seems to be doing it. I suppose if nobody seems to be interested in it then I will stop blogging. There must be thousands—if not tens of thousands—of blogs around the Web that nobody reads or that have become orphaned (where even the originator/author no longer checks or updates them). I started a blog once before a couple of years ago. It was orphaned after the first post, so let's hope I do a little better this time around.

From reading other blogs I think one of the main things is to be as short as possible but to get all the juicy stuff in. So a short full-fruit blog post seems to be the best way to go. This will be a bit of a challenge for me as I tend to waffle on; especially since I mastered the art of touch-typing and can type a lot more a lot faster.

My two primary non-family interests are IT (computers and software) and photography. I have been into photography since I was about 12 with a Kodak box brownie. I keep complaining to my family and friends (friends=about 2, but don't hold that against me) that I am really starting to hate IT because it chews you up and spits you out—it is so draining. And you can never really be up-to-date. Just as you approach being somewhat up-to-date then IT shifts a gear, or engages boost (for those of you who are lucky enough to own a turbo boosted car), and zooms ahead of you again.

Photography is something I plan to do more of in the future. Over the last 20 years or so I have been much less active in photography than I was in my earlier years. I find that it is one of the perverse things about life that when you are able to afford the really good gear (in this case cameras and lenses) you have either less time or less inclination to do whatever it is you really should be doing (but you still buy the really good geat just in case you do).

Anyway, what was it I said: short fruit-filled blog posts! So I should finish this one now and work out what fruit to put into my next one, which will really be my first actual blog post as this is really the "Hello World" post—as us IT types call it.

It is kind of interesting reading this old post. Not a lot has changed in 10 years. I still don’t take any where near as many photographs as I would like to. And I am very tired of IT; and of working in general.

Added five pictures to my Photo Blog page

After missing 29 days of posting, I have added a number of pictures to my Photo Blog page where I am trying to post a picture a day.

Obviously my plan to post a picture a day is not going too well; given that I got 29 days behind. But I am trying to catch up and hopefully will post about five pictures a day until I do.

Link over to my ‘photo blog’ page to check out the five new pictures I have posted.

Click on either of the picture strips to link over to the photo blog page.

Post with the most comments: Whitby Falls

I decided to check which of my posts over the years has attracted the most comments.

With 16 comments the winner by far is my posting about the Whitby Falls Coach House.

I did this post way back in September 2011.

Should you be interested, then click on the image to open the page.

Following are the last four comments posted.

  • From Shannon : I love this property and see its potential as a micro brewery, restaurant, function centre, accommodation

  • From Raelene : Can anyone tell me who owns it as I would like to take our Paranormal team in for a few hours

  • From Annette : Norma (or anyone else) - do you know where I would be able to locate ownership/employee or any other records regarding the coach house.....

  • From Norma : The Whitby Falls Coach house (previous the Jarrahdale Inn) and the asylum were on opposite sides of the Road. I don't think the asylum was visible from the Road. The asylum housed the more improved patients and they help run a bit of a farm.

    The Coach house was owned by the Cockram family and after the death of Mr. E. Cockram it lay empty for a number of years until it was bought by my late husband's father Victor Silich in 1933. They lived there until 1940,working the property as a farm. It was sold to a Mr. Riley who ran horses on the property. Then it was sold to a Mr. Edwards who turned it into

    restaurant etc. He built the brick shed and extended the house out the back for a kitchen and eating area. There have been a few owners since then and apparently the property was not viable, so it has been closed for a number of years.

The Whitby Falls Coach House would be one of those projects you might take on if you won $10 million on the lotto because, sadly, due the current state of dis-repair, I think you would need at least a million, and maybe two, to bring this great old property back to any useful state.