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I've been creative writing all my life, though with various haitus(es) along the way. IFrom 2010 I started this blog and enjoyed sharing writing and other information with everyone. illness and bereavement supplied the more recent hiatus.

Monday 5 March 2012

Is the Comma Becoming Extinct?

Is it me - or has anyone else noticed - how often hyphens are replacing commas in novels and other writing?
Cutting a Dash
is Lynne Truss' apposite & witty description.

Does anyone know why people are afraid to use commas, preferring to plonk in a dash/hyphen instead?

Some examples:

Surely the sentence looks better with commas rather than all those ugly dashes?

Are you a comma or a dash person?

I'd better have passed my test—it's ninety percent of my class grade—or I'll have to go to summer school.
I'd better have passed my test, it's ninety percent of my class grade, or I'll have to go to summer school.

Well, I passed the test—granted, I cheated—but I passed!
Well, I passed the test. Granted I cheated, but I passed!

Abby gave me a terrible haircut—and she expected a tip!
Abby gave me a terrible haircut and she expected a tip!*  Where and requires no comma.


  1. I like the em dash, more so when I'm answering myself. But in these examples, I think I'd rather use a period and create separate sentences.

    Maybe the em dash feels more informal. ???

  2. I use both, but I feel like the dash is used for more emphasis or a longer pause - at least that's how I use it! :D

  3. I am a massive fan of punctuation of any kind! I do like the semi-colon.

  4. Hi Madeleine .. when I write business letters I use the comma; however when I'm being more laid back and relaxed - I use the dash, or ellipses ...

    So I still use both - but first the people of today need to be able to read and write properly in the first place.

    Cheers Hilary

  5. Hmm...I don't like that. Lol. I'll use an em dash from time to time, but nothing will I ever love like I love a good comma. ;)

  6. Ever since Eats, Shoots & Leaves - (dash!) I've been a dash person as I got scared of using commas! LOL!

    Running away now! Take care

  7. I prefer commas too. I use the dash once in a while, but it always looks so - mean.


  8. I abuse both and make them work overtime in my writing. Really, I think I use twice as many commas as I'm supposed to -- and dashes too. :))

  9. I have a tendency to LUURRVVE the em-dash a little much.

    My editor has taken a lot of them out, replacing them with commas.

    However, she has sometimes struck out my commas and replaced them with em-dashes.

    There's probably some custom or rule that escapes me!

  10. I think that first sentence is better with dashes, but the others don't need them really.

  11. I like commas better dashes make me pause too long.

  12. I use more commas than dashes, but may sprinkle elipses more liberally than I should.

  13. If I'm writing a story I use commas, for blog posts and the like I'm more likely to use a dash. I can't think of a logical reason for the difference.

    1. Because a story is more formal than a blog and that is reflected in your writing

  14. Ooops forgot to say - there's an award for you over on my blog.

  15. The older I am, the less I know about commas. :)

    I think people prefer hyphens because there are fewer hyphen rules, so it's harder to screw up.

  16. I do so like the comma, the dashes take more work.

  17. Na, ja, what does one say to this? Perhaps it's the dash trend has to do with what those authors are obvious attempting to hide: The Comma Splice.
    As Wikipedia expresses it: Although acceptable in some languages and compulsory in others, comma splices are usually considered style errors in English.
    Last I heard editors of the English language don't particularly appreciate encountering them outside of the quotation marks. Therefore I must conclude people who employ dashes are caching their comma splice errors, or have this aversion to commit the comma splice sin using commas, or they can't be bothered writing two seperate sentences and employing a period.
    I have no idea. I'm too out of touch. However, I think too many commas, dashes or otherwise in the form of "sentences for runaways" may still be considered poor form.

  18. I do prefer commas, but sometimes, I find a dash seems to look better somehow. But it's a good point you raise. A few years ago I'd never have used a dash whereas these days, they common when I'm writing.


  19. I use both. I use a dash when I want to emphasize tone of voice or a pause so short it cannot really be called a pause.

  20. I must be a dash person because I prefer dashes in those examples! Except the first one. I'm not sure I'd use commas or dashes there...
    Looking forward to "being here" tomorrow :-)

  21. I'm more of a comma person but a dash pops in when a comma is just too gentle for me.

    In casual emails etc I'm a big one for ellipses....

  22. I use both, but opt for commas over other punctuation. I don't like a lot of dashes. Seems to chop up the flow for me.


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