Punctuating well is a lost art, dash it!


I note that ol’ Jimmy Jangles refers to me as “The Editor” in his blogroll. Technically true, but for those of you who want a really good editing-related blog,* let me refer you to Ms. Nicole Stockdale’s A Capital Idea.

In two recent posts, she addresses a pet peeve of mine that’s been getting worse lately — the proliferation of dashes (see? I’ve been infected), or what one of her readers refers to in a comment thread as “dash vomit”. I’ve encountered many writers who won’t use a period or a comma, let alone a colon or semicolon, when they can put in a dash instead. It’s mistaken for dynamic writing in the same way that slamming every sentence home with a exclamation point is mistaken for such. These aren’t the hallmarks of an active, exciting prose stylist; these are the symptoms of a scribbler who needs a Ritalin prescription.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever use a dash or an exclamation mark. Just pick the moments when they’ll be most effective. Write like a sniper, not a machine gunner.

* If you’re really in the market for a really good editing-related blog, Ms. Stockdale would no doubt in turn refer you to Bill Walsh’s Blogslot, and so will I. Next to Walsh, I’m a hack.

3 Responses to “Punctuating well is a lost art, dash it!”

  1. 1 Trite R.

    I hear some people use an abundance of dashes to compensate for having a small penis. Waitaminute – I use dashes.

  2. 2 Anonymous

    I would be content if this excess of dashes was at least made up of real dashes, not double hyphens. Microsoft Word automatically translates double hyphens into proper em-dashes (one of the few things it does right), but the web is plagued with “–“, unnecessarily so. When writing HTML, type in — (or —) and you’ll end up with “—”. Purdier, innit?Soupface

  3. 3 Anonymous

    D’oh. My previous comment was altered by Blogger. Not that anyone cares, but the HTML code for proper em-dashes is: & 8212 ; (without the spaces in between).

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