Em dash or parenthesis?

11 months ago | AdamBolander (Member)

Out of curiosity, when you need to add a... thing that I'm sure has a name but I'm too lazy to look it up... to the middle of a sentence, do you prefer to do it with "—" em dashes or with parenthesis?

In other words, would you write it as,
"They weren’t nearly as rare as the Kingwood—there was only one of those—but they were still unique."
or
"They weren’t nearly as rare as the Kingwood (there was only one of those) but they were still unique."

Author of The Gray Ranger, The Slayer and The Sphinx, Juryokine, Amber Silverblood, and more! Read for free on http://www.bolanderbooks.com

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Responses

  1. Raven Secrets (Member)

    Posted 11 months ago

    The parenthesis read like you're being whispered a secret by a shy confidante, while the dash is more like you're being told a secret by a salesman eager to show off his knowledge.

  2. AdamBolander (Member)

    Posted 11 months ago

    Personally I use em dashes because that's what Brandon Sanderson uses, and for a long time I tried to copy his style. I like to think I've developed my own style since then, but some habits stuck around.

    Author of The Gray Ranger, The Slayer and The Sphinx, Juryokine, Amber Silverblood, and more! Read for free on http://www.bolanderbooks.com
  3. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 11 months ago

    I consider them rhythmically/musically different. The em dash is like a rest combined with a fermata -- it causes you to pause, and the preceding part of the sentence lingers for a bit, setting up a contrast with the part that follows. When an em dash is used twice (as in the example you use) it works very well as a Hegelian device (thesis/antithesis/synthesis). The pause itself becomes part of the rhythm of the entire sentence. The parenthesis is more like a change in pitch, and doesn't change the rhythm nearly as much.

    Either works, it just depends on what you're trying to compose. :-)

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