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How to avoid dashes in formal writing.

By 5 September 2018Language Tips

Avoid dashes in formal writing

Dashes are informal punctuation

When writing a formal letter or other kind of document, some punctuation symbols are best avoided because of their informality. Dashes are one example, exclamation marks are another. To avoid them, replace with a more formal punctuation alternative.

In the example in the image, a comma or even a colon could replace the dash.

Max was accompanied by his mother, Sofia.

A colon is also a better option than dashes when writing a list of items. It’s also possible to reorder the planned sentence. Or you can do both e.g.

Mr Erikson’s current medication – warfarin and Pulmicort – need review at his next consultation.

At his next consultation, Mr Erikson needs a review of his current medication: warfarin and Pulmicort.

Remember, dashes are different to hyphens. A dash – is longer than a hyphen -. Hyphens are used in compound nouns such as ice-cream or to show the link between multi-word phrases e.g. 21-years-old. Hyphens are appropriate in formal writing.

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