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http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

Even when flawed research does not put people’s lives at risk—and much of it is too far from the market to do so*—*it squanders money and the efforts of some of the world’s best minds.

Should the starred dash from the above be replaced by a comma? because when you take the non-restrictive element out of the context. It should be like:

Even when flawed research does not put people’s lives at risk, it squanders money and the efforts of some of the world’s best minds.

So, the closing dash ,in the original quote, for the non-restrictive element actually encroached the original comma and made the structure blur a bit.

Or is it a rule for a dash non-restrictive element to be enclosed by dash when it is in the middle of a sentence?

  • 2
    What is a dash non-restrictive element? This is a parenthetical clause, which can be surrounded by either parentheses or dashes. You cannot, however, start one off with a dash and then end it with a comma, any. Ore than you can start one with a left parenthesis and end it with a dash; that is unbalanced. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 20 '13 at 10:37
4

A pair of dashes is used, as here, to separate a strong interruption from the rest of the sentence. Consistency requires the interruption to be terminated by the same punctuation mark that began it.

  • Adding to this, nobody prevents the OP from following up the dash with a comma. Some people these days consider it old-fashioned, but I for one use it all the time. – RegDwigнt Oct 20 '13 at 12:41
  • @RegDwigнt Have you a modern grammar source that licenses this? There are many advocating balanced offsetting only. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 20 '13 at 12:57
  • @Edwin yeah, modern might well be the operational word here, as I happily admitted. I'll go further and admit that I'm long past the age where I needed my writing to be licensed by a random other person. Then again, this is something I was taught in third grade, so as a matter of fact, it is licensed by a random other person. Most to the point, I run into it all the time in books I treasure, and old as they might — or might not — be, I'd rather mimic their punctuation than the Internet's. – RegDwigнt Oct 20 '13 at 13:07
  • @Reg Dashes with commas? Next thing you know, you'll be dashing along with a smoothing iron. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 20 '13 at 13:28

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