Possible Duplicate:
Parentheses vs. double commas vs. dashes to provide additional detail

Here is the sentence where i struggled to find the grammatically correct form:

Just curious – what did you think of Mila , as a woman and as a person , when you met her?


Just curious, what did you think of Jessica -- as a woman and as a person -- when you met her?

Which one is correct and why?

  • 1
    @RegDwight I think this question is more about what to do when there is more than one encapsulation in a sentence.
    – Adam
    Jun 1, 2011 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


'As a woman and a person' is a weak interruption and so should be set off by commas, not dashes. It's normal to use a comma to separate 'just curious', but in this case that would be ugly, so I would use a semi-colon instead:

Just curious; what did you think of Jessica, as a woman and as a person, when you met her?

Use of the semi-colon is not entirely standard, but it's also not unheard of, since 'just curious' pretty must stands alone as an utterance.


Syntactically, and setting aside the specific case of "just curious" here for a moment, I think both formations are valid. The important thing is to not use the same indicator in confusing ways within the same sentence. So, for example, don't write "just curious -- what did you think of Jesica -- as a woman and as a person -- (etc)", because the use of unpaired and paired dashes in such close proximity is likely to be confusing.

I balked at "just curious" in the previous paragraph, because its use as a sentence fragment throws things off a bit. I wouldn't use that construct in formal writing, though I might instead use "I'm just curious". But if I did that, I would follow it with either a colon ("I'm curious about the following thing") or a dash; a comma would be too weak.

But if, instead of "just curious" you led with "therefore" or "however", I think either of your two constructs would be fine.

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