How do you interject something into a sentence or dialogue that’s not actually part of the main thought? You can use commas or parentheses—or you can use em-dashes. Here’s how.
Use em dashes for interjections
Let’s say that you’re writing a sentence, like this one—and you want to interject another thought, say about the weather—you can use a pair of em-dashes to set off the interjection.
“If you’re breaking up dialog”—as we’re doing here to add some parallel thought—”you can pick up right after the second em-dash.” The em-dashes go after and before the quotation marks, respectively, as in the previous sentence.
This should not be confused with what’s called a dialog tag, a pair of commas separating two pieces of a dialog sentence with a relevant interjection. For example: “He told me about the incident,” John said, “frowning the whole time.” Dialogue tags, as shown in this example, are preceded and followed by a comma. Tradition puts the first comma inside the quotation mark, but there are some writers who prefer to put it after the quotation mark.
You can make your writing more interesting by breaking up long dialogue or descriptive information by using commas, parentheses, etc. Using em-dashes may give you a new punctuation tool to add to your tool box.
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