As I home in on the end of my first novel, I find myself vexing over punctuation and the correct use of the em dash. Having failed to find definitive answers elsewhere, I’ll get straight to the point.

While I’m aware that the em dash can be used for interruption, I sometimes use them to indicate motion or action. Three examples:

  1. ‘Here—’ she said, holding out a small parcel.

  2. ‘Come—’ and he beckoned me closer with a finger.

  3. ‘Look—’ I lifted my hand and held up the empty bottle.

I am wondering about possible lack of commas or capitalisation in some of these cases.

I am also perturbed about the following em dash, speech mark, comma combination:

‘Well, I—,’ and before I could finish, he’d gone.

All advice greatly appreciated.

  • It's all a matter of style. If it works for you, use it. And be aware that the part of your brain that is worrying about this issue right now is not the part that helps you as a writer to get the story down. Much of the time your "editor brain" will simply edit the life out of anything you do. I speak from experience.
    – Robusto
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:53
  • By the way, this is probably a question better asked on Writers.SE.
    – Robusto
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:59
  • I believe it's correct to have a comma after the m-dash in all cases, as in the last example. In each of your first 3 examples, you should replace the m-dash with a comma.
    – SAH
    Sep 9, 2015 at 16:39
  • Questions about proper English usage are definitely appropriate at English Language & Usage.
    – Maverick
    Sep 18, 2015 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


No commas following the em dashes. AP and AMA style guides are agreed: em dash goes inside the quotes, and that's your punctuation. No comma is implied.

Here are some examples from PunctuationMadeSimple.com.

Whether it's better to use a comma here or an em dash is another matter. But OP is asking about "correct use of the em dash," not whether he should use it.

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