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:


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

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.
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


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?


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.


Writer's jealousy

I don’t believe this jealousy is specific to writers. Probably people of any trade – maybe especially the creative ones – are prone to feeling jealousy towards each other. But lets focus on writers since this blog is for and about us people of the written word.

I think there are three main things that make me feel jealous of another writer.

  1. If the person seems to be more popular than me.
  2. If I read their stuff and I think they are more talented than me.
  3. If the person seems to be more committed and a harder worker than me.

Hmmm… Can’t say that sounds all too healthy, does it. The first one, I don’t even care if the person is a good writer, all I care about is popularity. The second is comparing talent which is almost, if not absolutely, impossible because we all write differently. I find myself comparing my talent “levels” to people who write totally differently than me.

A couple of years ago, in a creative writing course, I told my teacher I was afraid I’d never succeed as a writer because other writers were able to write hundreds of words on topics that I couldn’t imagine writing so much about. I was at once jealous of that ability of working through ideas that way, but at the same time didn’t truly feel I wanted to write like that anyway. I very much believe in getting the point across as quickly as possible. (btw, this is one of the reasons I love blogging; you just write as much or as little as you want.) But I still felt like there was something lacking in my writing because I like writing short. (Not including this blog post, apparently.)

My teacher at the time, Paul Belserene, told me that there is a writer – I wish I could remember his name – who wrote a whole book of just very short sentences, each one a piece unto itself. I think Paul was trying to teach me not to compare and not to have expectations of what my writing “should” be without challenging those expectations. Who said writing should be a certain way?

My last reason for jealousy, at first seems so ridiculous. I’m jealous that someone is trying harder than me? What if this motivated person is a “horrible” writer? And really, if there is one thing over which we supposedly have control, it’s the amount of work we put into something. Jealous of someone else’s talent, maybe, but jealous that the person sits down and writes? Geez, just sit down and write yourself!

But no, it’s way more complex than that. It is a myriad of psychological factors stopping the writer from sitting down to write. And seeing someone who, supposedly, is free of all those blocks, really is the ultimate reason to feel jealous.

Or… dare I say, the ultimate reason to take heed, look at that person, ask yourself how they do it when you don’t seem to be able to, and work on doing it.

“קנאת סופרים תרבה חוכמה” This famous saying from the Talmud means that jealousy amongst the wise leads to more studying. Meaning, if you’re jealous of someone else in your trade, it will motivate you to become better yourself.

Is that true? Do you find your jealousy, if you have any of course, is helpful or destructive? Does it make you want to go and create or go back to bed?

Interestingly, Benji Lovitt, a fellow writer, told me he thinks we feel jealous when we’re not doing all we can do. Whatever the jealousy might feel like – whether it feels as if it’s about the other person’s popularity or talent – he’s saying that if the person is putting the most he can into his writing, he won’t feel jealous. I assume that that is what he found with himself. An interesting idea… And if that is true, the next important question is, why am I not doing all I can do? What is it that is stopping me from trying to write as much or as well as I want to?

Here is a song about how we feel about the world – well, the day – when we aren’t feeling jealousy towards people. Actually, it’s just an excuse to post this song here because it was just playing in the cafe where I’m sitting and I love it.

It had me at, "You might fail."

I’ve been trying to define my problem. What I mean is, from the outside I seem so productive in my writing. I have had people tell me they’re impressed at my amount of out-put. There are ups and downs but really my blogs do seem to get a lot of attention, for the most part, and it’s impressive to people that I’m capable of writing so much.

But it never sits right with me when people say that and I just put my finger on why. I’m getting stuff out there, I’m writing, I’m creating, but I’m not actually focusing my creative energy into the thing(s) I’m most emotionally connected to, the stuff that is my real dreams.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my blogs, I really do. But there are other things that are like my ultimate projects and it pains me when I forsake them.

And why is that? Why is it that I so consistantly abandon my true dream? Oh, it’s so damn obvious. I’m terrified it won’t be good. Creativity had me at, “You might fail.”

Am I afraid that liking my own work is a kind of arrogance?

Joan is one of my new and faithful readers. :) Anyway, she wrote a comment on one of my posts and I thought it was so great, I asked her if she minded if I put it up as a post of its own. She agreed! Here is what she wrote:

“I totally appreciate what you’re saying about needing to get external validation in order to feel good about what we’re doing. I often wonder what internal work would be required for me to gain personal satisfaction just from the process of writing, instead of waiting anxiously for a pat on the head, and feeling deflated if it doesn’t come. Why is it that I can’t form an opinion of my own work without outside help? Am I afraid that liking my own work is a kind of arrogance? What if I allow myself to feel good about something I’ve written and then someone else tears it to shreds? My ego is fragile enough as it is.

“I also think that writing is a form of communication, and we want it to be a dialogue rather than a soliloquy. I believe that we share our passions with the world to feel more connected with others. What better feeling is there than to discover that your words have inspired someone, or resonated with them deeply, or made them feel less alone? How can we know if we’ve connected if we get no response? It’s like that old adage about the tree: If your words fall in cyberspace and there’s no one there, do they make a sound?”

Uch, such great questions!!!

What if I run out of material?

I wrote the following on March 19, 2009 at deenascreations.com:

I wonder if anyone else has this fear. I am, I think literally terrified, that I am going to run out of stuff to write about. This causes great stress because when I think of an idea, the worst thing, in my mind, is to forget the idea, because who knows if I’ll ever have another one. :) And I also hesitate writing about it, because maybe that will be the last time I have something to write about, so maybe I should push off publishing it.

Yep, that is the craziness going through my head.

I know. I’m driving myself crazy. I’d definitely put this issue in the category of “things I cannot control” which means I should probably let go of the fear and just write and think and write some more and, I guess, worse comes to worst, I’ll just have to find something else to do that I can love as much as writing. :) Simple, right?

It’s really interesting, when you think about it. This is actually a fear of losing something that is dear to me. Hm. Interesting.

Can my fellow writers relate to this? And can others relate to this with the thing they love?

Writing boundaries

How do I write as well as I can while at the same time keeping appropriate boundaries. Of course as a writer, you need to be willing to put yourself out there. But how do you figure out how much to put yourself out there? And how do you know, for example, how something you say will affect how people look at you later on?

Someone recently asked me my opinion on having a blog. He said that because he is an evolving person, he hesitates to write something on his blog today that down the road won’t be him anymore but people will continue to define him in that way because it’s on his blog.

Cat Stevens is someone who evolved, if you can call it that. A supposed peace-loving person, he later became a Moslem anti-Semite.

This is an extreme case but I doubt many people still really define who he is now by who he was in the past. I listen to his music but to me, the person who wrote and performed (actually, still seems to perform sometimes; check out youtube) that music doesn’t exist anymore.

It is definitely not always that simple. I struggle with this I think, literally, all the time. But personally I think a lot of my struggle with this is not actually about this so much as it’s a struggle against my self doubt.

I hesitate sharing my opinion with the world because of the fear I have that it’s not a “good” opinion. Worrying that I don’t have enough information in order to have a legitimate opinion is a big thing for me. Of course this is inhibiting, not necessarily in a good way at all, but it’s hard to get over it.

Another thing that sometimes stops me from expressing my opinions is my worry of the effect it might have. Specifically, if I have an issue with how certain people are acting in the community, I am scared to write about it – even when I would love to and even when I think it’s really, really important – because I am scared of the results.

I wrote a while ago about the poet who writes anything and everything and said she believed it was good to sacrifice anything for “art”. Here I am, today writing about this topic again. As you can see, this doesn’t stop being an issue for me.

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