Dashes in academic writing

Contact Dashes Dashes, like commas, semicolons, colons, ellipses, and parentheses, indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. Experienced writers know that these marks are not interchangeable. Note how dashes subtly change the tone of the following sentences:

Dashes in academic writing

One mark of novice legal writing is the haphazard use of three related punctuation marks: The Hyphen The hyphen is the smallest of the three marks, and has several uses: A hyphen is generally required between two or more words that jointly modify the word that follows.

These multiple-word modifiers are called phrasal adjectives or compound modifiers. So health-care professional needs a hyphen between health and care because the words jointly modify the noun professional.

Words that are spelled alike but have different meanings. Depending on the meaning, a hyphen might or might not be needed.

Examples of these words are self-confidence, ex-wife, quasi-tort, and all-powerful. Again, consult an up-to-date dictionary as the final arbiter.

Self-test and answers

Words that fall on the end of a line. Some word-processing programs can automatically hyphenate words at the end of a line.

If you use automatic hyphenation, make sure that the program inserts hyphens between syllables. The En Dash An en dash is larger than a hyphen and about one-half the size of an em dash. In legal memoranda, en dashes indicate that a citation spans multiple pages in the source material.

Connecting or contrasting pairs of words. Butterick also points out that en dashes are needed to connect pairs of words such as conservative—liberal split, Arizona—Nevada reciprocity, and Sarbanes—Oxley Act. The em dash is also the most versatile but underused of the three marks in legal writing.

Trimble says that the em dash can do five things quite well, and gives some actual examples of its use: Inserting an interruption or break in thought: Lewis Isolating a concluding phrase for emphasis or comic effect: Consider the following sentences: But whatever you choose to do, be consistent.

Few people realize that it is the most important single device for making things easier to read. Where punctuation is merely wrong, and the meaning unaffected, the discriminating reader draws other types of inferences—usually unfavorable ones—about the writer.

Well-crafted writing lends credibility to what is being said. In other words, a loose attitude towards proper punctuation and grammar in your legal writing can make you look foolish and risks disserving the interests of clients who pay you to follow the generally accepted rules.The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue.

Open education resources for academic writing. Review basic punctuation rules on our instructional pages covering topics such as apostrophes, colons, commas, dashes, hyphens, periods, and more. Skip to main content. Get Your Copy of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation #1 Resource for Teachers, Students, Professionals, and SAT Preparation.

All the grammar, punctuation, and usage rules and examples on the website plus dozens of quizzes with answers.

dashes in academic writing

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Hyphens and Dashes. Hyphens. Nevertheless, you will have to use them regularly because of the nature of academic and professional writing. If you learn to use hyphens properly, they help you to write efficiently and concretely. Too many dashes in one place can start to be overwhelming.

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