Posts Tagged With: grammar

Writing Tip: Dashes vs. Hyphens

In today’s Writing Tip, we’re going to talk about dashes (—) and hyphens (-). This is a pretty intense topic, so buckle up and prepare yourself for some extreme learning.


These cute little guys come in two varieties: em dashes (—) and en dashes (–). Can’t tell the difference? Em dashes are slightly longer. I know it doesn’t look like it, but trust me! I’m a professional. (God help us all.)

So these are the ones you use in lieu of brackets and commas to separate out phrases in a sentence (presumably there are other uses as well). I’ve seen em and en dashes used interchangeably (apparently en dashes are often used in date ranges, i.e. 1994–1998), but I favor em dashes, mostly because I like how they look. Anyway, here’s an example of dashes in action:

The awesome thing about dashes—and here I’m going to get technical, so watch out—is that they look like little snakes. I know, I know, it’s crazy. I’ll say, “Yo yo, Humphrey, H-skillet, this here dash dun look like a tiny little snake dude—” And Humphrey gets so irritated with my inability to correctly formulate English sentences that he interrupts me by pulling out an actual, live snake and throwing it at my face. But the fact remains that dashes—or any straight line, for that matter—are eerily reminiscent of our slithery brethren.




These are also called “short dashes” by very silly people, including myself. Sometimes I’ll even call dashes “long hyphens”, because I’m depressingly inconsistent in my terminology. Regardless, hyphens are the ones you use to connect words together, like “twenty-one” or “American-owned” or, when referring to the Dark Lord, “Good-old-What’s-his-face”.

Here is an example of hyphens in action:

In nineteen-eighty-one, I met a seventy-two-year-old man whose name was Johnathon Preposterously-Long-Surname. Mr. Preposterously-Long-Surname was the child of Mary-Anne Preposterously and Billy-Bob Long-Surname. Billy-Bob himself was the child of hyphenated parents, Gracia Long and Eustace Surname, who combined their names to create the aforementioned “Long-Surname” moniker.


So, to wrap up, dashes and hyphens are different. They’re not interchangeable. And they’re really confusing when used too much in a single paragraph, as can be seen above. They are also part of very violent punctuation gangs who roam the streets at night correcting grammatically incorrect graffiti and getting into fist-fights (correct use of hyphen, incorrect use of spelling!). So be aware, and stay safe out there, my blogging compatriots!


Unrelated media of the day:

New music video by Marianas Trench making fun of pop songs …

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

And Thus the Re-Writing Commences!

As you may recall from my previous post, I recently got my manuscript for Chasing Nonconformity (sequel to Imminent Danger) back from my beta readers. Huzzah!

Now come the re-writes.

I’m not going to lie — I’m having a lot of trouble with Chasing Nonconformity. Sequels are really hard, and I’ve been struggling with making sure this book has as much “oomph” as the first book. It’s a delicate balancing act — bringing enough elements from the first book to keep the feel of the world and characters the same, while at the same time introducing enough new elements to keep the story and characters changing and evolving.

My first draft, waaaaaay back in 2010, was a lot of fun to write, but there was a distinct lack of plot. The characters mostly just wandered around and did amusing things — as I said, enjoyable to write (and probably to read), but not exactly a “story”. My second draft, which I finished back in the spring of 2013, was much better — the characters actually had motivation for doing stuff! But the stakes still weren’t high enough, which once again made it feel like the characters were just milling about.

Then, a couple of weeks ago — and all credit goes to my brilliant brother Jesse — the solution to my “lack of stakes” problem arrived. I can’t tell you what it is, obviously, but it is both awesome and incredibly amusing (well, amusing to me, at least!), and it has the added bonus of wrapping up a few loose ends from the first book. Woo!

That’s pretty much how my brain works. First I write the story … then I go back and figure out how to make it make sense. Not the most streamlined of processes, but … well, for whatever reason it seems to work for me!

So, for everyone keeping track of my writing progress, Chasing Nonconformity is slowly but surely getting done. Assuming all goes well, this should be the last major re-write. I figure that’ll take me a month or two. So going into December the story should be ready to go out to another round of beta readers … give them two months to read it, since my beta readers are notoriously slow … putting us at the start of February …

Therefore I’m going to tentatively put the release for Chasing Nonconformity somewhere around the Spring 2014 area. I was initially aiming for January, but that’s just not going to happen now. Onwards and upwards, my friends! To victory!


Unrelated link of the day:

Are you a 90s kid? Prepare to be blown away by nostalgia:


Semi-related image of the day:

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

9 Things I Learned From My Copy-Edit

I finished going over my copy-edit this evening. All the changes are made, the manuscript has been sent back to iUniverse so they can do God knows what with it (hopefully publish it, lol), and I officially have nothing more to do with the book until they send me cover proofs and final print proofs. Woo! Talk about a weight off your chest. Now I can focus on other things, like my job, and not living in a forest of cardboard boxes.

But you don’t care about that. You came here for the list!

9 Things I Learned From My Copy-Edit

1. The first paragraph at the start of a chapter is not indented. The same goes for the first paragraph after a scene break.

2. According to American publishing standard, when indicating possession, this — Chris’ — is not correct. This — Chris’s — is correct.

3. A list of adjectives do not require as many commas as you might think. This — fluffy, white hair — is not correct. This — fluffy white hair — is correct.

4. Once you’ve defined a foreign word in italics, you don’t have to italicize it any more. I’m given to understand that you can still italicize it if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

5. Instead of using italics to put emphasis on a certain word, try to let the sentence structure emphasize for you.

6. Ship names are italicized, but a class/type of ship is not italicized. E.g. The Enterprise v.s. Boeing 747.

7. The following dialogue tags — “she panicked”, “she laughed”, “she sighed”, “she smiled” — are not actually dialogue tags. They are verbs that should not be applied to dialogue.

8. Percentage should be written as XX percent — e.g., 97 percent.

9. The correct phrasing is “Far be it from me to say”, not “Far be it for me to say”.

Also, having finished reviewing the copy-edit, I can now officially pass judgement on my copy-editor. Ready?

Was the copy-edit worth $1900?

No. I definitely did not get $1900 worth of editing done to that manuscript. Not by a long shot. On the plus side, I did learn several things (see the above list), so it certainly wasn’t a complete waste of money.

How was the quality of the copy-editor?

He seemed fairly competent. I caught five mistakes overall — four typos, and one word that was randomly bolded. He had a weird obsession with semicolons that I didn’t agree with, and he also seemed to have a vendetta against commas, so I had to add a handful back in. He also failed to notice that some of the chapter titles were misaligned. To be fair, I didn’t notice that either, but still!

Overall judgement?

Not worth the money, but I did learn many new things, so we’ll call it a draw and move on.


Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: iUniverse, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 68 Comments

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