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Using Dashes and Hyphens with other Punctuation Marks

Updated on September 24, 2015

Using Dashes and Hyphens with other Punctuation Marks


Using dashes and hyphens with other punctuation marks

When you go to school, you learn your basic grammar and that’s almost all you will need to have a fairly competent punctuation (if you paid attention).

Aren't there enough rules already to be adding more about using dashes and hyphens with other punctuation marks?

The truth is that you don’t study all the different crazy combinations that occur with grammar and punctuation rules in school – or if you do, you don’t really remember after long, do you?

These hub is about those combinations. You won’t see them often, but if you want to have a perfect punctuation when you do learn how to combine dashes or hyphens with other punctuation marks.

Dashes and Commas

When you have a sentence where you have a dash in a place where you should put a comma, drop the comma and keep the dash.


The witch hunter read the case – all 100 pages of it – and he took it as a personal challenge.

He gathered his working materials first – the sea salt, the stakes, the blessed rope and his iPod loaded with kick-ass music – and after having a sandwich he left for work.

If the witch hunter fails – and the odds are really against him – we can always call a vampire hunter.


Quotations, Dashes and Commas

An exception to the coma-dash rule (well . . . sometimes)

When using quotations, some prefer to put a comma after the dash, just before closing the quotation; but others drop the comma.

Just choose and be consistent. If you are writing for somebody else ask what’s preferred (or better yet, avoid such strange quotations).

Without a comma:

“It is an honor to be at your service – by the way Madame, you look lovely tonight–” the witch hunter said, “may we see our ailing patient now?”

With a comma:

“The girl is resting in her chamber she was just – Oh my . . ! What a big stake you are carrying –,” Madame said, “she was just taking an afternoon nap.”

Dashes, Periods and Semicolons

If you need a period or a semicolon where you have the second of the pair of dashes, drop the second dash and keep the period or the semicolon.

She started misbehaving after our trip to Rumania – that exotic country with such an unfortunate reputation; I thought it was just a new trend, like the cinnamon challenge but with blood.

Dashes and Parentheses

Both dashes and parentheses are used to insert information that explains or qualifies, but that is interrupting and it is a different idea than the main sentence.

You would use both dashes and parentheses when you have such an interrupting phrase within another already interrupting phrase. Confusing? Check the next examples:

We were looking for a vampire or witch hunter for a long time now (or several hunters – we know how dangerous this line of work is) but you were the only one who answered the ad.

It is just the nature of the job, Madam. Many of our best - Van Helsing, Anita Blake, Mr. Summers, Buffy (please don't let me started on that girl) - changed sides in the end.

  • If the dash is in the same place where you have the closing parentheses, drop the dash (like in the last example).
  • If you have a parentheses within dashes, and both the closing parentheses and dash end in the same place, you keep both.
  • Dashes within parentheses or parentheses within dashes? You can choose either way.


Dashes, Exclamation and Question marks

The exclamation or question mark goes before the second dash if the phrase continues after (you use both punctuation marks).

Before I start I need to know what I’m invoicing – have you decided on a package? – because I need a check.

My husband didn’t leave his checkbook – I can’t believe it! – so I’m paying with credit card.

If the phrase inside the dash ends with an exclamation or question mark in the place where you put the second dash, you drop the second dash (as you would with a period or a semicolon).

Is there any way to guarantee your services – they have a high cost?

If I die you can always call your credit card company and dispute the charge, but there are no guarantees with the undead – unless you go for the Stake-Them-Out-Cold package of course!

And that's it!

See, the rules weren’t that many and they weren’t so bad either!

© 2014 Gabriela Hdez


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