A Dash of Help

I recently wrapped up my five month long partnership in our local SCBWI Author Mentorship program. I was matched with Anna-Maria Crum and we worked so efficiently together I was able to get two manuscripts into superb shape for submitting.

Not only did my characters and plot get a needed boost, but I also learned (or relearned?) some important grammar and editing skills. Over the next few months I’ll share a few tips to help make your final product a professional masterpiece.

Today is the often misunderstood HYPHEN (-), EN-DASH(–) and EM-Dash(—). I had become lazy in how they are used and often in my drafting chose whatever one came to mind first. Here’s the low down on how to use these correctly:

Hyphen(-)

  1. When to use
    1. Connecting compound words (right-of-way)
    2. Telephone numbers or grouped numbers (555-555-5555)
    3. Syllable breaks within words at the end of the line
  2. How to make one
    1. Use the minus sign on the keyboard

En-Dash(–)

  1. When to use
    1. To join words when describing a range (June–August, 2017)
    2. To join numbers in a range (8–13 years old; 1968–2010)
  2. How to make one (two options)
    1. MAC & Windows: Type a word followed by a space, then type the hyphen, followed by another space and the second word. Tap enter, return or space bar.
    2. MAC: option-minus sign; Windows: control-minus sign

Em-Dash (—)

  1. When to use
    1. Set off a unique idea from the main sentence (This manuscript—minus a few flaws—is close to perfection.
    2. Separate an inserted thought (Writing is a journey—often not on the same road.
  2. How to make one (two options)
    1. MAC & Windows: Type a word followed by two hyphens, then type the second word and tap  enter, return, or space bar.
    2. MAC: shift-option-minus sign; Windows: alt-control-minus sign

No test. You are dismissed for the weekend!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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6 Responses to A Dash of Help

  1. Looking forward to your words of wisdom 👍🏻

  2. stevenbfrank says:

    As a grammar geek who loves punctuation marks–I gave them a whole chapter in The Pen Commandments–I love Greg’s latest post, both for its subject matter and its clarity. I’m looking forward to more.

  3. I had either forgotten some of these or never knew them. Thanks, Greg! I’m looking forward to more of your posts about what you learned. I am applying for the Nevada SCBWI mentorship program this year. Wish me luck!

  4. I’m impressed. Will be interested in learning more about your wonderful mentoring opportunity! What a boost for your writing!

  5. This was helpful! I think I often use the en dash and the em dash interchangeably. Now I’ll be more careful. Your mentoring experience sounds rewarding. One of my beta readers in my writing group has a mentor and feels she is benefitting from the interaction..

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