Category Archives: The written word

En dash, em dash, hyphens—how to use them and how to create them in WordPress

How many of you writers differentiate properly between the usage of the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash? Not yours truly! Until today, that is. I hereby vow—well, not exactly, of course—to explain to you how to use these three little beauties properly in your writing and to then use them properly myself.

Photo source
Photo source

According to this piece on Get it Write Online

The hyphen is used like this:

Twentieth-century
or
Well-being

The en dash (which is the width of the letter N) is used like so:

7:00PM–9:00PM
or
August 17–September 2

And the em dash (which is the width of the letter M) is used like this:

I went to the store—the one on Keren Hayesod—and I bought the damn apple.
or
The apple turned out to be rotten—or so I believe.

Now how do you create en and em dashes in WordPress?

Aha! This is the second most exciting part of this post. Turns out WordPress is all ready to go with en and em dashes. I learned from this post that if you simply write two hyphens next to each other, without spaces, you’ll get an en dash and if you do the same with three hyphens, you’ll get the em dash.

- this is a hyphen
— this is an en dash
— this is an em dash

Finally…

All this being said, is this whole topic passe or do you think it really is good for writers to make sure to use these punctuation marks properly?

P.S.

According to this piece, the official way to create en and em dashes is like this:

In any software program that handles text, the em dash can be typed on an enhanced keyboard as Alt + 0151—that is, hold down the “alternate” key and type, using the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard, the numbers 0151. The en dash can be typed as Alt + 0150.

Why you should stop reading your readers’ comments

A very famous blogger (if only I could remember who) doesn’t allow comments on his blog. If someone wants to share their thoughts (or passionate attacks) about a piece, they can do it on Facebook, he said, in order to keep it more controlled and to keep his website clean.

Continue on, my friend. (image source)
Continue on, my friend. (image source)

Assumptions assumptions. It is assumed that having a conversation going on your blog is some great ideal. And that it’s important to interact with your readers, replying to most/all of their comments. Why? And talk about freakin’ exhausting!

I keep speaking to popular bloggers who are emotionally worn from comments left them by their faithful followers. Sometimes it’s the same reader every time who pushes the writer’s buttons. Sometimes it’s trolls (whatever that is). But does it matter? Every time, these writers spend countless joules figuring out:

  1. How to internalize the comment – what to think and feel about it.
  2. Whether or not they should reply to the comment of question.
  3. What to reply.
  4. Whether or not they should continue a conversation with the reader.

Ugh! Aren’t we writers? How did we become socializers instead?

Now, this is not only a problem because it takes up so much time and energy. It’s also a problem because of how it can affect a person’s writing.

Having to deal so much with readers’ comments has three potential negative repercussions.

  1. A feel good picture (image source)
    A feel good picture (image source)

    It could have the writer calculating what/how/how much to write too much based on the readers. This could be misguided based on one or two verbal people who have nothing better to do than try to get your attention. It could also be based on not getting comments, the thinking being that if I didn’t get comments, it must not be a good piece or maybe I’m just not a good writer.

  2. It could make the writer obsessive about what comments she’s getting and how many. It could have her returning to a post many times on the day it’s posted in order to see how it’s doing. This activity is supposedly based on the above-mentioned assumption that it’s of utmost importance to read your readers’ comments and interact with them. But this what writing is supposed to be about? I don’t remember reading about the importance of obsessing over readership/commenting in On Writing by Stephen King.
  3. It almost definitely creates a situation where the writer becomes dependent on external feedback – writing passionately after getting good feedback and hiding miserably in a corner after negative feedback. And when you’re bombarded with feedback (silence is feedback too), it’s a creativity-sucker (or a muse-muter).

I think one of the great challenges for writers is figuring out how to tap into our own feedback system and decide selectively who is worthy of our listening ears. From whom am I truly interested to hear what they think and continue developing my writing accordingly? This is a question not to be taken lightly!

For now, this piece is dedicated to the talented bloggers I know who periodically curl up in a corner because of the interactions they need to deal with online. When I hear about it, I feel like giving them a virtual slap and saying, “Don’t you see that you’re writing is good? Continue on, my friend. Continue on.”

Existence

“What a wonderful world.”
Said Louise Armstrong.

Is he naïve.

“The #1 question to ask:
“Is the universe we live in friendly or hostile?
“Your answer determines your destiny.”
Said Albert Einstein.

Is he intuitive.

What is this world?
This horrible place.
Can we measure the good versus the evil?
Can we?

How do we know if it’s good or bad?

“The answers are in you.”
Say They.
“Your key to understanding
the universe…
“Is your soul.”

Says Who?

How do I get my mind out of this horrible place?
I feel like I’m sinking.
I’m scared. I’m scared shitless.

My nightmares…
Sleeping with the light on.
Fear for the evilness that I imagine I know.
I do believe it is there. The evilness of this world that I live in.

I fear to move.
I fear it’s all for nothing.

“Hevel Hevelim,”
said King Solomon.

“Amen to that,”
said Deena.

My sadness written in Vancouver on March 7, 2007.

Do not envy me

Envy? Ha!
That I saw the sunset over the beautiful Pacific?
That I get to sit at Starbucks,
drink my yummy latte?
Decaf. Mmmm…
No worries about it being Sunday night?
That I have a total of two things scheduled weekly
totaling 3.5 hours?
But inside I suffer.
Inside I cry.
I feel empty
so lost
the clouds make me cry
no, not from happiness.
from emptiness
the lostness
the fear
that things may never be better

People often ask me if I had fun in Vancouver (where I spent three  years). When I arrived I was a very sad person. Here is a taste of that. Written February 18, 2007.

In the Moment

I stop my thoughts.
Am I in this moment? I ask.
No.

I’m thinking about getting inside quickly. I’m speedily walking, slightly hunched over in the  icy rain, getting colder and wetter by the second.
I’m chilled to the bone.

I am waiting for this moment to be over.

I stand in place.
With the rain pouring down on me.

I ask myself,
What else is going on now besides my chill and wetness?

It smells so fresh and comforting.
The enveloping sounds are calm, like God touching me.

I stand and smell and look and feel in the moment.

And then I continue to walk home. I walk slower, and more softly so as not to disturb the kind rain’s sounds. Feeling less chilled, I hold myself more erect, and I deeply breathe the fresh air, glad for this cold, wet winter’s night.

I wrote this piece March 15, 2007 as part of a creative writing course with the thoughtful and caring writer and teacher Paul Belserene

Dark to Spring

Written March 28, 2007 as part of a creative writing course with the thoughtful and caring teacher and writer Paul Belserene

I was in a place so dark.
And I’m afraid of the dark.
It felt cold and deep and lonely.

Sporadic flashes of light hinted
Potential change.

And then suddenly I was outside.
Just in time for the beauty of Spring to touch me.
Smells, sounds reaching me.

Standing with my eyes closed,
moved to feel the birds’ songs.

Thankful beauty can touch me again.
Wondering when the last time was it did.

Slow and Long

Written as part of a creative writing course with the thoughtful and caring Paul Belserene. March 10, 2007

When I was short
My stories were long
People’s patience was short.

When I was short
I moved slow as molasses
People’s patience was short.

When I grew tall
I learned to tell short stories
Short, short stories.

When I grew tall
I lost my patience
for myself and for others.