comma or dash with apposition: anorexia nervosa - an eating disorder

audiolaik

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,

Which of the following is correct?

1) Anorexia nervosa--an eating disorder characterised by an obsession with losing weight--is common among young gymnasts and ballet dancers.

2)
Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterised by an obsession with losing weight, is common among young gymnasts and ballet dancers.

Thanks!
 
  • Madrid829

    Senior Member
    US English, Great Lakes area
    You should use the comma.

    We use a lot of dashes in shorthand and informal writing (especially on the internet), and sometimes a dash is appropriate if you're just indicating a small piece of information as an aside, but in this case you are qualifying "anorexia nervosa". And for formal writing, when in doubt you should stick with the comma.
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    Number 2 is correct.

    Number 1 is incorrect because a) it's the wrong place to put a dash and b) that's not a dash anyway; it's a hyphen. A dash must have space before and after.
    Nervosa-An sounds like an American girl's name.
     

    Madrid829

    Senior Member
    US English, Great Lakes area
    There aren't spaces per se. Rather, there is a specific symbol that is slightly different than a hyphen:

    Hyphen: -
    Dash: –

    Hyphen: Low-calorie
    Dash: I started screaming–loudly–and scared everyone in the room.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I've found the following sentence in a book on punctuation:

    If you want to emphasise an example, a definition, or a contrast, you can use a dash or dashes.

    p.s. While writing the sentence, I hit the hyphen key twice;yet the result is rather poor.
     

    Lexiphile

    Senior Member
    England English
    If you want to emphasise an example, a definition, or a contrast, you can use a dash or dashes.

    Yes, indeed, you can. If your sentence is already cluttered with commas, then dashes, or parentheses even, can be used to set off these things. But your sentence has no other commas and this is a simple apositive. Dashes are not appropriate.

    And by the way, I think the rule about "no spaces" is silly. As you can see from Madrid's examples, it's not easy to tell the difference between a dash and a hyphen. And most computer keyboards don't have a dash anyway (which is why you have used a double-hyphen in your correction). I still think spaces look better, particularly when you are using a variable-pitch font.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Number 2 is correct.

    Number 1 is incorrect because a) it's the wrong place to put a dash and b) that's not a dash anyway; it's a hyphen. A dash must have space before and after.
    Nervosa-An sounds like an American girl's name.

    MicroSoft Word converts two hyphens "--" into a single dash. I suspect that is the case in this instance.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    lk—gh

    Above is the result of typing two hyphens together in OpenOffice.
    There are two slightly different conventions for using a dash. The more modern one is to put white spaces at both ends of a dash, while the older style uses no white spaces at all, but writes the dash solid next to whatever precedes and follows it.
    Source
    Follow the house style of wherever you are writing for.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Personally I'm a big fan of the 'swung dash' ~ this thing ~ but wouldn't recommend it for writing anything formal. It gets round the problem of not having a proper dash on one's keyboard, and is okay for internet-stuff where one's punctuation isn't being scrutinized by hordes of sticklers:D
     
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