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HD: Ranting About Hyphens
Posted: 06 December 2012 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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What is Ms.Doll’s objection to “e-mail”, anyway?  Is it simply a case of pure, unapologetic, peevery, or is there some sort of logic behind this, faux or otherwise?  I don’t see any reason to conclude that using a hyphen there would be “wrong” based on any of the hyphenation rules she mentions…

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Posted: 07 December 2012 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I seem to remember email used to be written e-mail anyway.  And still nobody has said why I can’t use my tried and trusted method of using hyphens and dashes (see earlier).

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Posted: 07 December 2012 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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You all are the experts but I would bet that replacing em dashes, en dashes and minus signs with hyphens would not lead to any great confusion. You can tell what the sense is from the context. Certainly if I am sending an email, the person receiving it is only going to get whatever the heck is next to the 0 on my keyboard.

If for some reason the recipients can’t tell that:

“X = Y - Z” involves a subtraction
“1968-1970” indicates a range of years
“man-eating crocodile” shows the first two words together describe something about the third
“I am stepping out - I may be some time” includes an emphasized pause between clauses

then dash it all, they are shit out of luck.

(Actually I never use any kind of dash in the fourth way above. I only included it for completeness.)

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Posted: 07 December 2012 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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No, you are not required to know, let alone follow, these rules.  That’s what copyeditors are for.

I disagree with this rather strongly.

First, I’m not talking about email or other informal media. I’m talking about writing for which you desire a professional appearance. That includes formal letters (on paper or electronic), business writing, web copy, anything meant for print publication, etc.

As to why you shouldn’t just leave it the copy editor:

1) For everything except print publication, you are unlikely to have a copy editor, and even for print publications copy editors are becoming increasingly scarce and overworked. Responsibility for producing copy that looks and reads right is increasingly falling on the writer.

2) If you are trying to get something into print, adherence generally recognized style rules in the first draft you submit will increase your chances of publication. Yes, few people know the difference between an en dash and em dash, but you can almost guarantee that the person deciding whether or not to publish your piece does. Of course, dash usage is highly unlikely to be the deciding factor, but a submission that shows the writer knows her craft elevates that submission in the eyes of the editor and tells her that this writer is a professional who has taken care in writing the piece and will more than likely be a pleasure to work with.

3) Copy editors have limited time with a text. Every minute spent nitpicking punctuation marks is time not spent on the more important aspects of copy editing, like improving the clarity of the text or suggesting alternative wording. And sending relatively correct copy to the copy editor, who is probably a different person than the editor passing judgment on the piece, starts your relationship with the copy editor off on the right foot.

4) You are the author of the text, which means despite what the editors do to it, you own it. You can’t exercise responsible ownership of a text if you don’t understand why the editors are making the changes.

5) Writing is a craft, and punctuation is one of the tools of that craft. A good craftsman knows his tools. If you don’t know the standard uses of basic punctuation marks, and the dash is a basic mark, you can’t use them to make your writing fully expressive of what you want to say.

[ Edited: 07 December 2012 06:53 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 07 December 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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You can’t argue that proper use of em and en dashes is necessary to correctly convey your meaning if copy editors are the only readers who recognize those differences. Unless, as you say, your intended audience is copy editors.

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Posted: 07 December 2012 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Standard use of the dashes signals that the writer knows what a dash, of whatever type, is supposed to be used for, and that there is probably a reason that an em dash was chosen rather than a semicolon or parentheses. If I see an en dash where an em dash should be, I question whether the writer knows what he is doing, and whether he didn’t really intend commas or parentheses. There are fine distinctions between these marks that do make a difference in the tone of the writing.

And yes, one of the audiences of any professionally produced (or aspiring to be professionally produced) piece of writing are the editors. The general reader may not know the difference or care, but the editors do and will, and if you don’t impress them, the general readers will never get a chance to read your work.

[ Edited: 07 December 2012 08:13 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 07 December 2012 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Maybe there are easier shortcuts in Windows and Linux that what’s been shown here, but what has been posted makes me appreciate my Mac just a bit more.
For an en-dash, I hit option+hyphen: –
For an em-dash, shift+option+hyphen: —

Curiously,in the composition window, these both show up the same (likewise when I insert them through the Unicode Character Palette), but when I do a preview, the difference is apparent, and I trust it will be in the posted message.

typo corrected

[ Edited: 07 December 2012 02:52 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 07 December 2012 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Dr. Techie - 07 December 2012 08:17 AM

and I trust it will be in the posted message.

‘tis

On windows

alt + 0150 –
alt + 0151 —

edit — I mantled all over Skibs! Sorry!

[ Edited: 07 December 2012 09:32 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 07 December 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Standard use of the dashes signals that the writer knows what a dash, of whatever type, is supposed to be used for...

Signals to whom? They aren’t signaling anything to the vast majority of us and if I were reading an article about marketing, I wouldn’t judge the quality of the marketing advice by something as irrelevant to the point as an en dash. You can be a great marketer without knowing anything about en dashes.

I’m just saying that getting worked up about something as esoteric as an em dash is something editors do; others don’t care and have no need or reason to care. If my understanding of what an author is trying to say depends on my understanding of the proper use of an em dash, then the author is lost from the get-go.

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Posted: 08 December 2012 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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You all are the experts but I would bet that replacing em dashes, en dashes and minus signs with hyphens would not lead to any great confusion. You can tell what the sense is from the context.

I presoom yu fele the saim wey about speling.

I disagree with this rather strongly.

I disagree with your disagreement just as strongly.

Are you a copyeditor?  No?  Then perhaps you will defer to someone who is and who sees unedited text every day.  (I work mainly for a large and well-known university press, so this is not some amateur slush pile.) I can assure you that hardly a one reliably has correct spelling, let alone uses en and em dashes.  I repeat: that’s a copyeditor’s job.  Authors by and large do not worry about such things, nor should they; their job is to write.  (The manuscripts that bother me are not the ones with random sprinklings of dashes but the ones where the writing is so bad it’s hard to even tell what they’re trying to say.) It’s true most publishers don’t do much work on their MSS these days, but that’s a publishing problem, and not one to be solved by trying to shame writers into doing a copyeditor’s job.

Also, for eliza and others wondering how to do em dashes: at least here in this forum, it’s easy—you just space, type two hyphens, and space again, and when you post your comment it’s magically transformed into an em dash!  (Don’t worry about en dashes; that’s really and truly specialized stuff that nobody but editors cares about.)

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Posted: 08 December 2012 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Actually I do work as a copy editor, although part time and irregularly.

Yes, where a copy editor does exist it is indeed their job to make such corrections. In particular, it is entirely the copy editor’s job to make sure the text conforms to any peculiarities of house style, as writer’s should not be expected to know those. But the use of dashes is pretty standard and doesn’t vary much from style to style.

But there is a vast world of writing out there that never sees a copy editor, most obviously writing for the web and anything that is self published. It’s not a question of “shaming a writer into doing a copy editor’s job,” it’s a question of whether the author wants her writing to appear professional because no one else is going to do it for her. Making sure the professor’s profile page on the department website or their latest grant application is well-edited is every bit as important to that professor’s career as is the editing in his latest journal article. Yes, most people may not notice, but the few who do are usually the one’s who matter.

If we were talking about the difference between a three-dot ellipsis and a four-dot one, I would agree with you. But knowing the difference between a hyphen and an em dash is Composition 101 stuff, and everyone who produces any kind of professional writing ought to know it.

[Edited to clarify that it’s knowing the difference between a hyphen and em dash, not hyphen and en dash, that’s really important, and to added “grant application,” which is another hugely important and highly judged area of writing done in a university environment that has never and will never see a professional copy editor.]

[ Edited: 08 December 2012 08:42 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 08 December 2012 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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But knowing the difference between a hyphen and a dash is Composition 101 stuff, and everyone who produces any kind of professional writing ought to know it.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree, except in the sense that there “ought” to be world peace.

As for the general issue of writing competence, here’s a sentence I just ran across:

Council on Social Work Education initiated committee enhanced the definition of military social work and developed recommended competencies in military social work practice and education.

I literally have no idea what’s going on with “initiated committee enhanced”; I’ll just have to add a “please clarify” query.  This is the kind of thing that makes editing a living hell.  Hyphens and dashes are trivial by comparison.

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Posted: 08 December 2012 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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My justification is not really about making the copy editor’s job easier. I agree a dash problem is trivial and easily corrected, and it is the copy editor’s job to do so. It’s about knowing how to make your writing look professional when there is no copy editor, which is the case for 99% of the work produced by people in professional environments.

And that sentence is really bad, much worse than the stuff I’ve seen university freshman produce. My guess is that what is intended is:

The committee initiated by the Council on Social Work Education initiated committee enhanced the definition of military social work and developed…

[ Edited: 08 December 2012 08:47 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 08 December 2012 09:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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She calls it a “rant,” but it really isn’t. If only more people addressed their pet peeves in this fashion.

No comment.

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Posted: 08 December 2012 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Here’s another one:

The ability to shift closeness needs from parents to peers in military training were successfully accomplished.

How do you even write a sentence like that?

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