English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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?

share|improve this question
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.

share|improve this answer
Perfect, thank you. The Wikipedia articles helped immensely. – Abluescarab Feb 14 '14 at 10:32
As RegDwight pointed out, it is also acceptable to use a comma. – Abluescarab Feb 14 '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 (:--)

share|improve this answer

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.

share|improve this answer
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 '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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 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 '14 at 5:06

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

share|improve this answer
I disagree. Perhaps you mean, 'Remind me what your name is again.'? – Leon Conrad Feb 14 '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 D Feb 14 '14 at 8:26
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 '14 at 8:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.