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The Enigmatic Em Dash, by Matthew Salzwedel, Lawyerist Blog

(This column is adapted from an article originally published in the Minnesota Lawyer on July 1, 2013.)


Knowing how to punctuate properly is essential to good legal writing. Besides the semicolon, though, lawyers probably misunderstand—and as a result misuse—the em dash more than any other punctuation mark. That’s because it’s possible for a lawyer to write for an entire career without ever having to use it.

But lawyers who consciously avoid using the em dash forsake an important legal-writing tool. They’re like carpenters who choose to work with rudimentary tools instead of precision instruments. The job gets done; but the result is hardly refined. . . .