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Dashes in personal statement

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Decicco, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. Decicco

    Decicco 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    In Microsoft Word, I put two dashes in a row ("--") and it becomes one large dash. However, when I paste this into AMCAS, it appears as "--".

    So, which is correct:
    This: "This leads me to my favorite extracurricular activity-belching."


    this: "This leads me to my favorite extracurricular activity--belching."

    Thank you!
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  3. mk8

    mk8 2+ Year Member

    May 14, 2008
    Arlington, VA
    2 dashes is correct, but one dash is preferred by those individuals trying to squeeze a PS in under 5300 characters. "_-_" could also work but who has space for THREE characters, when two would do.

    I don't think any adcom is going to punish you for it, but go for 2 if you have room. Plus it has more of a comedic pause before "belching", looks like that's what you're going for.
  4. Decicco

    Decicco 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    Thanks. But, this is just an example from my head, lol.
  5. 8744

    8744 Guest

    Dec 7, 2001
    " : "
  6. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills 10+ Year Member

    Mar 31, 2005
    Like pandabear said, use a colon. Dashes are the informal version of a colon.
  7. Decicco

    Decicco 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    Good idea. But, consider this example:
    Even some single dashes can't be replaced by colons. Example:
    Are dashes ok in cases like this where colons won't work? Maybe I should just reorganize the sentence so it doesn't need a dash?
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
  8. Maruko

    Maruko 7+ Year Member

    Jul 14, 2007
    5000 characters limit.
    Does it include spaces, too ??
  9. Depakote

    Depakote Pediatric Anesthesiologist Rocket Scientist Physician Moderator Emeritus Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    5300 characters, including spaces.
  10. Nevadanteater

    Nevadanteater biochemical engine 7+ Year Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Dashes are not informal colons.

    They're totally different things.

    Dashes are just fine in a PS as long as you're using them properly.

    Use a colon in the OP's statement.

    Use a dash in your example.

    Also, to the OP, use a space on either side of your dashes when you are using them like that. unless you are making a compound word that isn't traditionally a single word.

    Also, buy a copy of:

  11. pianola

    pianola MS2 7+ Year Member

    May 23, 2008
    Probably one is just fine. You can use two if you're feeling fiesty.

    (i.e. I have no idea and there might not be rules about it)
  12. jebus

    jebus Banned Banned 5+ Year Member

    Aug 22, 2005
    A: Dashes are awesome. I littered my PS with dashes.
    B: Buying this book is an awesome idea.
    C: Also buy this book:
    D: It burns when I pee - can't something be done about it?
  13. Nevadanteater

    Nevadanteater biochemical engine 7+ Year Member

    Jun 18, 2006

    Yes, something can be done.

    Just buy this book:
  14. Decicco

    Decicco 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2007
    I recently found this:

    After reading this, I removed my dashes and noticed that it had no negative effect on my essay
  15. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills 10+ Year Member

    Mar 31, 2005
    Yes, they are. They are also used in other ways, but in the OP's original example the dash was being used as an informal colon. It isn't that there is no place for a dash in a PS, I would just venture that that place is limited to marking an interruption, as in the next poster's example.

    From the masters themselves:

    "The colon has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and more formality than the dash."

    "Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary. A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parenthesis."

    "Use a dash only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate."

    Mmmmmmm, anality. :D
  16. Asp

    Asp 5+ Year Member

    Oct 16, 2007
    Katy Perry's basement
    you should write dashes as " -- "
    more sophisticated

    to really save space, use only a single space between sentences

    and I agree that the colon is more appropriate for the OP
  17. harposnarpo

    harposnarpo 2+ Year Member

    Jun 14, 2008
    Dashes = Parenthesis = Commas.
  18. thoffen

    thoffen Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 14, 2006
    The PS hierarchy is something like this:

    relevant content
    grammatically perfect

    Don't worry about these little details. Remember that the people who read your PS are sifting through thousands of applications -- all with similar content. They're not going to put yours on the top of the pile because you know how to use dashes correctly. They're going to choose the one that grabs their interest without putting in a lot of effort to parse structure.
  19. chad5871

    chad5871 Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2006
    Portland, OR
    I personally love dashes - they are my favorite punctuation marks. However, I used them for five phrases in my PS and several readers commented that I overused them. I personally prefer using em dashes ("--" with no space between or on either side--so it would look like this) for emphasis. Usually, most of what you'll be setting apart by em dashes is supplemental and could be cut if you need the characters. I ended up deleting two of my phrases, setting one apart in parentheses, and using a colon for the other, leaving me with just a single em dash phrase. In general I think it's a good idea in an essay this short to not overuse a single punctuation mark - mix it up and make it interesting for the reader.

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