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As I walked through the channel — I knew it was over. Is this a correct usage of the em dash?

marked as duplicate by Janus Bahs Jacquet, JJJ, J. Taylor, Nigel J, Davo Mar 26 at 15:01

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  • No. IMO, that sentence requires an ordinary comma. – TrevorD Mar 24 at 23:43
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    That -- is two hyphens. This — is an em dash. There is a punctuation guide published by The Oxford Dictionaries, part of which is their Em dash guide. – Weather Vane Mar 24 at 23:46
  • Usually an em dash signifies an abrupt or drastic change in the direction of a sentence. I don't think this sentence qualifies.The independent clause,"I knew it was over," seems to flow naturally from the dependent clause. "As I walked through the channel." For example, "As I walked through the channel--hell, it's all a lie. There was no channel." – Zan700 Mar 25 at 1:24
  • No dash and no comma. – Rusty Core Mar 25 at 15:08
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No. You can use a dash to connect two clauses that aren't complete sentences, but in this case where the second clause flows naturally from the first one, you would be better served using a comma. Dashes are usually used to indicate a change in tone or direction (often to a facetious or informal one).

After three weeks on set, the cast was fed up with his direction — or, rather, lack of direction.


If you're using a dash instead of a comma because you feel that a comma wouldn't give the second clause enough weight, you'll probably need to change your wording. Something like this could work:

As I walked through the channel, I realized I had to give up. It was over.

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