Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Up until last week I thought there were only two horizontal punctuation marks: dashes and hyphens—I’m not sure what category underscores come under, and right now don’t care. The uses of dashes and hyphens are clearly explained in my three punctuation “bibles” for standards in writing and/or editing—and I looked in the obviously outdated manuals again before I started to write this blog. Since my computer has no key for a long dash, I use the hyphen symbol instead with the hope my readers understand my intent. Sometimes when I hit the hyphen, and I clearly want the dash, the genie inside my computer puts in a dash for me.

Last week, when I sent the manuscript for my book, Retired, Not Expired, to the editor, I asked her if the person who sets the font can help me out with the dash/hyphen error. She told me that I needed to do that edit myself, and explained how to get the dash, but alas, her next instruction through me a curve ball. “Remember, you want the ‘em’ dash, not the ‘en.’” I had no clue what she was referring to, but am proud to say, thanks to her directions, I set up a command key not just for the “em” dash, but also the “ellipse.” (…) I have one for the “en” dash in case someone is kind enough to explain to me when to use it and if I should or should not leave a space before and after the symbol.

Fixing, the ellipse was easy. I just had to use the “find” and “replace” feature—not so with my incorrectly used hyphen. If I use find/replace for that, then all of my correctly hyphenated words would have an “em” dash in lieu of the hyphen. As you can imagine, I am now correcting the old-fashioned dash, one dash at a time. GRRR

If the name of the “inventor” of all the new punctuation rules now that computers set the type had a phone I would call him. I can understand why he ditched the two spaces between sentences, but how “—“ is more cost effective than “-“ is beyond my …scope of reasoning!

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