Let me cite two examples, one using "—" (dash) and the other using ":" (colon):

John has three sisters — Sita, Mita and Rita.

John has three sisters: Sita, Mita and Rita.

Grammatically, both sentences are correct. The only issue here is the use of two different punctuation marks as one sentence uses "—" (dash) and the other ":" (colon).

Which punctuation mark is correct? What is scope of usage of each of the punctuation marks? Can they be used interchangeably in the given context?

I am not going into the issue of m-dash or n-dash; nor am I concerned how a "—" (dash), when occurring in a pair, is to be used.

Can anyone shed some light?

  • 1
    -- is just a typewriter representation of — because getting a long dash isn't straightforward in many contexts (Apple make it easier than most). You can use the HTML entity — in your post to get a dash.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 11:55
  • To make the dash mark using Windows keyboard, press Alt and type 151 like this — which is much better than using a double hyphen -- . This question looks suspiciously familiar.... I wonder why.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


Probably mostly a matter of preference. I myself have slight preference for a simple comma over "--". And a larger preference for "--" over ":". The dash to me signifies a space of time, almost a breath if it were spoken. The colon to me has a "scientific" highfalutin feel, similar to "to wit".

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