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I have a sentence (and other sentences like it) in which I'm not sure what punctuation to use.

Remind me—what's your name again?
Remind me: what's your name again?

Or is there something else that would work better in sentences like this?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The colon is used to convey a proportional relationship between two parts of a sentence, eg 'Remind me of something. That something is your name.

The em dash is usually used to convey a break in thought, while connecting the utterances either side of that break.

For further info, see this and this.

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Perfect, thank you. The Wikipedia articles helped immensely. –  Abluescarab Feb 14 at 10:32
    
As RegDwight pointed out, it is also acceptable to use a comma. –  Abluescarab Feb 14 at 11:08

I'd always choose a colon over a dash, unless there is some compelling need to show drama. One or the other is certainly needed in your sentence, and either will do. Never be tempted to use both (:--)

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I will use a simple comma, unless there's a big fat pregnant pause. It is sad to see not a single answer explore this option.

If there is a big fat pregnant pause, I will use an em dash ("—", not "--", it's the 21st century and proper dashes are supported everywhere).

I would not use a colon here. It can be justified, but wouldn't be my choice.

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Sorry, the double hyphen is a bad habit I've adopted from using Microsoft Word. I've consistently forgotten that it doesn't actually work in other settings as an em-dash. –  Abluescarab Feb 14 at 10:36
    
Slightly off-topic, I don't have the em dash sign on my Italian keyboard. I know there is a combination of keys which need to pressed contemporarily, and frankly one which I have never used. I tend to copy and paste the em dash for ease and speed (not very efficient, I know but always easier than looking up the combination of keys). Is there an idiot-proof way of typing this symbol without resorting to have it written on a piece of paper, which I'll end up losing or forgetting where I put in any case? –  Mari-Lou A Feb 16 at 10:41
    
@Mari-LouA Sorry if you get this twice. I have to admit that I'm not all that clear on how international keyboards work, but hopefully this will be able to help you. On a Mac, an em-dash character is accomplished by pressing Opt, Shift, - (minus). On Windows, hold the Alt key and press 0151 on your right keypad, in that order. If you have a laptop, you may have to use a special tool. On Windows, this tool is called the "Character Map". On Linux, you may want to read this. –  Abluescarab Feb 19 at 11:28
    
@Abluescarab The key combo doesn't work, it just pastes the last thing I copied. I have a laptop, Windows... yes... I know. It's Vista. Do you see? Too much hassle and I have to look for a special tool on control panel, I guess. Ack! Thank you for your patience and help, at least I hope RegDwight will speak less disparagingly of those who do not have the em dash punctuation mark at their fingertips and make do with a double hyphen. I will look at the wiki link later but I suspect I have already seen it, yonder ago. Thank you in any case. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 19 at 14:26
    
@Mari-LouA Sorry that it didn't help. I know I have a hard time remembering key combinations like Alt+0151. The only one I remember is the copyright symbol. –  Abluescarab Feb 20 at 5:06

You don't have to use any punctuation. Remind me what's your name again? would be fine.

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1  
I disagree. Perhaps you mean, 'Remind me what your name is again.'? –  Leon Conrad Feb 14 at 8:11
    
@Leon I'm confused. Could you break the sentence down into subject, predicate and object and highlight the mistake I made? I know it's too much to ask for but it'll be really helpful. –  Sandeep Dhamija Feb 14 at 8:26
2  
your name - your name is x - what your name is is x - these are all declarative forms. 'What is your name' is an interrogative form. Your suggestion put an interrogative sentence within an imperative sentence, which needed a punctuation mark to highlight the change in intention. Mine made a declarative clause the object of an imperative sentence, and as such, would not have needed a punctuation mark. Hope this helps. :) –  Leon Conrad Feb 14 at 8:33

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