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 …

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