Dashing Around to Find Dashes

During Family-Teacher Conferences, one of my students mentioned that she wanted to know “what that line was” that Harper was using throughout Just Grace, a book I lent her. I figured she meant the dashes, and once she showed it to me, I realized my hunch was correct. Then my student said, “I want to do that.”

“Do what?” I asked.

“Write with funky punctuation like that,” she replied genuinely.

“How come?” I asked wondering about the reading-writing connection she was making.

“Because, it’s neat. I don’t see those,” she paused, “dashes that much in other books. I want to try that in my own writing.”

So here I am, on Sunday night, dashing around looking for other books where authors use dashes in a meaningful way so that she can see a few examples of how published authors use dashes. There are myriads of examples of dashes in writing. However, I’m trying to find a way to teach this to her so she’s clear about when to use a dash in lieu of a comma or even parenthesis. A few of the sites I’ve looked at, which have still left me wondering about how I’m going to explicitly teach her about dashes so she can use them purposefully in her writing, are: