Dash it all! Or, how I learned to work with en dashes and em dashes.

Em dashes are used to separate parts of a sentence, especially when there is an abrupt change from one clause to another, or if special emphasis is required when adding information to an existing clause. See the following sentence for an example: Greek infantry, based on the hoplite—the heavily armed and armoured infantryman organized into tight phalanxes—replaced the horseman as the decisive force on the battlefield. (Lerner 1986, p. 202) In the above sentence, the em dashes are unspaced, which is the style favoured in North American usage. In this example, the dashes are used to set off the separate clause, ‘breaking’ it out of the main sentence. Parentheses (brackets) could also have been used, but would give less importance to …

Read more »

Hyphens, En Dashes and Em Dashes

When and Where to Use Hyphens A hyphen is a small dash and is the most frequently used of the three punctuation marks. It is mostly used to join words together. A simple example is joining two or more words that describe a noun when they appear before the noun, such as in the following examples: ‘John drove down a one-way street.’ ‘This is a well-written essay.’ ‘The researchers conducted a trial-by-trial analysis.’ The joined words in the above examples are called ‘compound modifiers’, ‘compound adjectives’ or ‘phrasal adjectives’, and the hyphen is used to prevent confusion or ambiguity. For example, without hyphens, the following sentence could be interpreted in two ways (he could be either a working man who …

Read more »

How to Use the Abbreviations i.e. and e.g.

i.e. and e.g. come from abbreviated Latin terms. i.e. comes from the Latin id est, which means ‘that is’, ‘namely’ or ‘in other words’. e.g. comes from the Latin exempli gratia, which means ‘for example’. Here are some examples of how to use e.g. correctly: ‘John had a large collection of classic cars, e.g. a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Phaeton and an MG, which he kept in a large warehouse.’ ‘Joan had errors in her essay, e.g. no commas.’ Bonus: Download our Quick Reference Guide for how to use i.e. and e.g.  Please note that when submitting essays or theses to universities in Australia, it is preferred that you only use e.g. within parentheses, such as in the following examples: …

Read more »

Apostrophes, Parentheses, Brackets and Ellipses

Apostrophes ’ Apostrophes are very handy indicators to use in sentences. They are used to indicate possession. Here are some examples: ‘John’s car was a different colour from my sister’s car.’ ‘I turned the corner to be confronted by my manager’s assistant.’ ‘The politician met his mother’s expectations but failed to meet his electors’ expectations.’ If the apostrophe is not used, then Johns and sisters become plural as if you are talking about more than one John or sister (as in electors, which is plural). Using the apostrophe makes a possessive. If you need to indicate possession at the end of a word that is a plural, like electors, you simply add it to the end. Parentheses and  Brackets (  ) [  ] Parentheses are used to enclose references or citations …

Read more »

Introducing Relative Clauses: Who, Whose, Whom, Which or That?

A subordinate clause is part of a sentence that depends on a main clause for its meaning. Relative clauses, which you may encounter in both defining and non-defining form, are types of subordinate clauses that work in specific ways. You can normally recognise a relative clause within a sentence because it will begin with a word such as ‘which’, ‘that’, ‘who’, ‘whose or ‘whom’. First, we will focus on the uses of ‘that’ and ‘which’ in defining and non-defining clauses. The word ‘define’ gives you a clue to the purpose of the clause. A defining (relative) clause does just that: it defines the noun, or subject, of the sentence it is part of. The defining clause is an essential part of the …

Read more »

The Adventures of Graham

Meet Graham the adventurous cat and his wise teacher, Professor Benson. Join Graham on his journey to learn all there is to know about grammar and writing. Like us on Facebook to be kept up to date on all of Graham’s adventures.