Em Dashes—What's the Deal?

Em dashes have been all the rage—it’s a New York Times article—a hot topic of debate. It’s one picked up by angered or overwhelmed professors, by over-invested writing students, by internet trolls who like picking fights over things they’re un-educated about—people who may or may not understand it’s real use. 

I love them—and have loved them—for as long as I realized they could be swapped out for other things I’ve already overused within a sentence. I’ve loved them—in all their broad and vague abilities—for as long as I realized I could create run-on sentences that were grammatically correct. 

Em dashes are particular. They’re not just a hyphen from a beautiful-looking compound word or a double hyphen--pretending to be an em dash. Nary a floating underscore—untethered to the ground of however one actually uses an underscore outside of an @instagram_account. 

And yet, as much as they are a “not,” em dashes equally so are an “are.” They work as asides—things people don’t need to know—(who would use a parenthetical aside, [some brackets], or a series of commas, for the same)? They can act as colons—the opener of a new thought. ”What about—” something like a, “Dramatic pause?” Calling all speech writers—you can use them while you’re trying to mimic your own speech patterns. Or they can replace italics as emphasis—seriously. 

This article has drawn on long enough, and I think it’s time I end my ode to my em dash—our em dash. I leave you with one more thing—and it’s up to you to decide what it means—