Whenever I read a piece of writing that includes an em dash, I'm unsure wether to read it as an afterthought or added emphasis. Here's two examples I made:

The em dash being used as an afterthought:

"There was 130 of them—and, yes, I counted them all."

As added emphasis:

"I don't want you all showing up to my party—especially you."

So, which one would it be? Is the em dash used to show an afterthought or added emphasis—or both? (Pun intended.)

  • What follows an em dash can be nearly anything that is grammatical, including something quite independent/unrelated. The dash signals an interruption, nothing more.
    – Drew
    Apr 23, 2017 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


An Em Dash may introduce different sentences whose meaning and effect may vary according to context, but is not limited to an afterthought or to add emphasis:

  • The em dash is perhaps the most versatile punctuation mark. Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons —in each case to slightly different effect.


An em dash, or long dash, is used:

in pairs, to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence: - Thousands of children—like the girl in this photograph—have been left homeless.

  • My son—where has he gone?—would like to meet you.

to show other kinds of break in a sentence where a comma, semicolon, or colon would be traditionally used:

  • One thing’s for sure—he doesn’t want to face the truth.

  • Things have changed a lot in the last year—mainly for the better.

Note that there is no space added on either side of an em dash.

Em dashes are especially common in informal writing, such as personal emails or blogs, but it’s best to use them sparingly when you are writing formally.


  • So, depending on the context, it can be used as both ways, to add an afterthought or emphasis? Apr 23, 2017 at 8:59
  • 3
    @Anonymous16-Year-Old - yes, but not only that, you can add any sort of information you want using em dashes.
    – user66974
    Apr 23, 2017 at 9:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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