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Dashes. Dashes. Dashes (—) separate a word or group of words from the rest of the sentence. Dashes are used either to indicate an abrupt break in thought or to introduce an explanation or afterthought. Dashes.

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Dashes1
Dashes

  • Dashes (—) separate a word or group of words from the rest of the sentence.

  • Dashes are used either to indicate an abrupt break in thought or to introduce an explanation or afterthought.


Dashes2
Dashes

  • I tried to express my gratitude not that any words could be adequate but she just nodded and walked away.

  • The clause “not that any words could be adequate” must be isolated form the rest of the sentence.

  • I tried to express my gratitude — not that any words could be adequate - but she just nodded and walked away.


Dashes3
Dashes

  • When the group of words that needs isolating is in the middle of a sentence, dashes function as a pair of less formal parentheses.

  • When the phrase that needs isolating is at the end of the sentence instead, only one dash is required.

  • Just outside the door to the cabin we heard the howling of wolves — a sound that made our hair stand on end.


Dashes on the act
Dashes on the ACT

  • If the underlined portion or any of the answer choices contains a dash, compare the dash to the punctuation marks available in the other answer choices.

  • Check the non-underlined portion of the passage for dashes that might be linking up with this one to isolate a clause or phrase.

  • Ask yourself whether the sentence contains a sudden break in thought, an explanation, or an afterthought.


Works cited
Works Cited

  • Martz, Geoff, Kim Magloire, and Theodore Silver. Cracking the ACT. 2007 ed. New York: Random House, 2007. Print.