How to Use a Dash

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A dash can be used in a sentence in place of a comma or a semicolon to offer more information about the first half of the sentence. Use dashes in less formal situations to add more details on the subject with information from a standardized test prep instructor in this free video on education.

Part of the Video Series: Education: English, Math & Teaching
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Video Transcript

Let's take a look at how to use a dash. The first and most important thing is the difference between dash and hyphen. So, a dash is used in a sentence. It's used similarly to the way we use a comma, a semi-colon or parenthesis. I'll talk about that in a minute. Just so you know, a hyphen, which is not a dash, is used to break two word...or to combine two words. Two ways we see this a lot is when someone hyphenates their name, like, John Jones-Smith. You know, somebody gets married and they're taking on both names. It would be Jones, hyphen, Smith. And that's why we call it hyphenating your name. The other way we use a hyphen is when two words are going to be joined in...to be hyphened, such as cross-multiply. If you're cross-multiplying, cross, hyphen, multiply. So that's the way we use a hyphen. A dash is used in a sentence, like I said, similar to how we use parenthesis, or a comma. It's used to explain something. It's a little bit less formal than some of those. And it's used when we're going to give more information about something we just said. For example, the car made a noise - a loud, whistling hiss. So a loud, whistling hiss is telling us more about the noise. And you can use the dash. This could've been used....we could've used a comma here, but the hyphen adds just a little bit more character. Sometimes people will choose the dash, sorry, people will use the dash to give it a little bit less formality than the comma. To give it a little bit more character than the comma. And also to give a little bit of variety, too. A lot of times, in your writing, if you use more variety, it gives the writing a little bit more readability. It makes it easier to read. Makes it more interesting. So instead of using a comma, a person might use a dash at this point.

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