Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Copyediting Challenges - 6

Another clever Facebook post on Grammar

A bit of nostalgia, courtesy of Facebook - the grandgirls, 2012

A new wrinkle - Trick or Treating via U-Haul, 2015

Bear Update:
The great Florida bear hunt ended after two days (out of a proposed week) with 298 bears dead, the Florida Panhandle exceeding its quota of 40 three times over, and Central Florida exceeding its quota of 100 bears by more than a third. North Florida and South Florida did not meet their allowed quotas. The controversy continues. The weight minimum was 200 pounds, and one bear was brought in at 40 pounds, another at 70. There was even a fruitless search instigated for cubs that might have been left motherless, although the Florida Wildlife Commission alleges that spring cubs are well old enough to fend for themselves. There is already talk of another hunt next year. Only time will tell if culling the bears was the right move. Most people I know found the hunt appalling, yet hunters refer to us as "city folk." Frankly, I have no idea which side is right.

Copyediting Challenges - Part 6

 1.  Variety of dashes.
 The most common dash is an "M" dash, called that because it equals the width of the letter M.
Also used is the "N" dash, the width of the letter N.
When writing this blog, I often use: space hyphen space, a form of dash that works well in non-fiction but not in fiction, as it looks really weird when used at the end of an interrupted sentence.

Grace note: Do not use a single hyphen in place of a dash. That's a real no-no.

Grace note 2: Do not use a double hyphen as a dash. This dates back to the days of typewriters and is no longer necessary now that we can write a dash the same way typesetters do.

 2.  Where to find M and N dashes.
Most word processing programs offer these dashes in their symbols menu. Microsoft Word under "General Punctuation" symbols, Word Perfect from the "Typographic Symbols" menu. (Both are sub-headings under Insert - Symbols. I have an older version of Word, but you will definitely find them if you search around a bit.) I've also heard that some versions of Microsoft Word provide an automatic M-dash if you type 3 hyphens in a row. (My older program does not.) HOWEVER, I don't bother with the Insert menu. I simply use the old ASCII codes that have been built into computers since before PCs. (Many people have no idea they are there.)  

To write an M-dash: use Alt + 0151 on your keypad. (It won't work with the numbers at the top of your QWERTY keys.) Num Lock must be off.

To write an N-dash:  Alt + 0150 

All but one of the examples below are taken from my current Work in Progress, The Welshman's Bride, expected out some time in December.

The M-dash (often written em-dash):

3.  The Dash in place of a Colon or Semi-Colon.
Colons and semi-colons are seldom used in Fiction, particularly the lighter fiction represented by the Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Paranormal & SyFy markets. As far as I can tell, they are considered "too academic." Not that I don't use both on occasion, but in general these punctuation marks are rare in Fiction.  In most manuscripts these days, you will find both replaced by either a period or an M-dash.


She was a strikingly lovely woman—Hugh never would have ignored her, not after Rhys had put her aside. 

4.  Dash to indicate an Interruption.
Any time a person's words, or thoughts, are interrupted, you indicate this by using a dash.

Grace Note:  To get the correct quotation mark at the end of the M-dash, type the quotation mark twice, then delete the "open quote" symbol. (Something I can't demonstrate here, as Blogger uses san-serif quote marks. A copy from my manuscript reproduces well, however. See example below.)

Grace Note 2:  If a bit of dialogue, or a thought, trails away without interruption, then you use an ellipsis. [Scroll down to last week's Mosaic Moments.] A dash is used only when an actual interruption occurs.


“We will agree to nothing,” Rhys said, “until we have had more time to examine the situation.”
“Carys!” I cried . . .

5Dash used for an insertion.
Sometimes you want to insert a phrase in the middle of a sentence, perhaps a "comment" that simply won't work if only set off by commas. In that case, set off the phrase with an M-dash on each side.


Though what I am to say to Mama—let alone what I am going to do with her—I cannot even imagine.”

Shortly after I finished my daily meeting with Mrs. Blevins, Matty, Tegan, Alice, and I— feeling like conspirators in spite of my newly altered status—glided through the tapestry room and into the ancient castle. 

6.  Dash used for clarity.
In a manner similar to #5 above - If you have written a sentence with several clauses needing commas, you can frequently make it easier to read by setting off one of the phrases with an M-dash on each side. (On occasion, only a single dash is needed.)


Gruffydd and Olwenna Blevins stood before me, boasting nearly identical expressions—that of prisoners poised on the gallows, defiant to the end, waiting for the hangman to thrust their heads through the noose. 

7.  The dash used to avoid Dialogue Heresy.
As I've stated before in Mosaic Moments, you absolutely, positively cannot use a full sentence as a dialogue tag. You can, however, avoid this disaster by setting off that full-sentence tag with M-dashes on either side.


 “No, I do not regret it,” he added, “but if I had known”—a gargoyle grimace passed over his face—“I never would have subjected you to what you have encountered here.”

8.  The dash as an ever-useful tool:


 A pyrrhic victory—wasn’t that the name for a victory won at too high a cost?  

Now that I had matters more firmly in hand, perhaps a diversion was called for—something I had longed to do but could not manage until I had the ordering of the household.  

The N-dash (often written en-dash):

The Chicago Manual of Style basically advises the use of the N-dash in place of a hyphen. Which, frankly, surprised me. (I admit to not looking at "en-dash" rules until writing this blog.) They recommend the N-dash for between numbers, such as 1923–1940, or: The Miami–New York train goes through Orlando every day at 2:00 p.m.

To demonstrate the same with a hyphen:  1923-1940; Miami-New York.

I personally like to use the N-dash for "stuttered" dialogue. It's just enough longer than a hyphen to emphasize that a person is having trouble getting his/her words out. Yet I find the M-dash a bit too much. This is a personal choice, however; the CMS recommends the M-dash for just about everything except replacing a hyphen in typography. 

Example of an N-dash:

“I–I needed to be up and about,” I added rather obscurely.

The M-dash is ubiquitous, being used for myriad purposes, not just the ones mentioned above. The N-dash is less used; in fact, not at all if you prefer to stick to the hyphen for every dash not requiring an M-dash.  Do not, however, use "space hyphen space" for a dash when you are writing Fiction.  

Suggestions for the other ways to use the dash - and examples - are most welcome. 

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


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