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I'm confused about the differences between a comma and a dash. For example:

    1. After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth—Ireland.
    2. After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth,Ireland.

Is the first sentence or second sentence correct?

Another example that I would appreciate someone clarifying for me is,

3. The girl, who was living in an off-campus apartment at the time, was fond of music, dancing, and poetry.

4. The girl -- who was living in an off-campus apartment at the time -- was fond of music, dancing, and poetry.

Again, is it 3 or 4 that is correct?

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Jim221. After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth—Ireland.
2. After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth,Ireland.

I would use the first one if I had to choose between them. However, from the viewpoint of style, I think it's better with "Ireland" first, thus:

After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was finally time to revisit Ireland, the land of his youth.

Jim223. The girl, who was living in an off-campus apartment at the time, was fond of music, dancing, and poetry.

Use this one. A simple non-restrictive clause like this only needs commas.

CJ

Comments  

Number 1 is good—better than number two. The dash provides a dramatic pause in keeping with the tone of the sentence. The version with the comma is correct but lackluster by comparison.

I prefer 4 over 3. The parenthetical is so far removed from the import of the sentence that it needs the isolation lent by the dashes. Parentheses would also be correct, but they intrude too much for this sentence, I think. With the commas, the reader takes a moment to wonder what her living arrangements have to do with anything.