How Do I Love Thee, Em Dash? Let Me Count the Ways.

I love you, em dash.

There, I said it.

Is it wrong to have feelings for a punctuation mark? Not when it is as versatile and graceful — and dare I say, attractive? — as you, em dash. Only a heartless anti-grammarian would claim otherwise.

I remember the first time I noticed you. I must have been about 12. Sure, I had seen you before. But I had never really seen you, if you know what I mean.

What was your name? What was your purpose? My English teacher had the answers. I quickly learned all I could about you. How you can “take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons⁠” and “set off parenthetical information.” And you do it all with unparalleled elegance.

Oh, how it fills me with rage to see people use an en-dash or, heaven forbid, a mere hyphen in your place. Do they not understand that the shorter en dash (–) should only be used to “show ranges in numbers and dates”? Or that the role of the stubby hyphen (-) is “to join words or parts of words”? Neither could ever dream of doing what you can do, em dash.

Then there are those so-called experts who argue that you should be used more sparingly. Nonsense! Should you listen to Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3” less often? Drink the finest Bordeaux only once or twice in a lifetime? Why anyone would suggest putting limits on enjoyment of perfection is beyond me.

Some argue that you are difficult to conjure. And yes, on a PC, one needs to hit the Ctrl, Alt and hyphen buttons simultaneously for you to appear. One needs to be dexterous and committed to pull off such muscular gymnastics. But I have never doubted for one second that you are worth it, em dash.

In the years to come, I am sure our paths will cross many more times. I will look forward to each encounter like I look forward to the new spring after a long winter. For you, em dash, truly are a special punctuation mark.

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