Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Seductive Em Dash

We're re-running some of our favorite blog posts this holiday season, and this is one of my all time favorites from Kristi. I've read this several times, but I still can't get over my em dash abuse. Hopefully, you'll have more luck!

My name is Kristi and I have an addiction. Technically, I have several if you count chocolate and coffee, but in terms of writer-ly things, I have a small problem with em dashes. One of my critique partners called me out on the em dash addiction, and I went through my manuscript and removed a TON of those puppies. The problem is--they're so much fun. All you have to do is type two hyphens into Microsoft Word and the em dash appears--it's like magic. (Unlike Blogger, which is apparently not magic and won't let me transfer the formatted em dashes into this text)

Here's when it IS acceptable to use the em dash:

1) To indicate an abrupt change in thought. This can also include a parenthetical statement that needs to be set apart. The em dash is used here when you need more 'oomph' than a regular ole comma.
(e.g. One of the best ways to determine which em dashes to remove is--did somebody say chocolate?)
2) To indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted.
(e.g. "If you think I'm just going to stand here, while you point that Taser at me--")

That's pretty much it. Me? My motto has been "Why use a comma when you can have the excitement of an em dash instead?" I haven't deleted all of them, but there was a serious em dash massacre in my house last week.

What about you? Anyone else have em dash love? Any other writing-related addictions you'd care to admit?


  1. Lacey-since writing that post, I've written another ms (the one you have now), and I think I have less em dashes than in my first book. You'll have to let me know if I've made any progress with my addiction. :)

  2. Oh, I just realized you posted this, Valerie--I can't wait to hear from you about my plot hole progress. :)

  3. I love this post. I am entirely too dependent on these guys!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  4. Ahh, yes, the em dash... I too have fallen into it's sweet embrace. I think there needs to be an Em Dash-aholics Anonymous.

  5. Lol, Kristi! So far I think you've managed to control your addiction in the new WIP.

  6. Yeaaaah, I've been guilty of em dash proliferation, and one novel I completely abused the ellipses. Had to do a Search and Destroy for it. Same with italics and exclamation marks. Use with caution! Anyway, great post. I'm glad I found this site!

  7. Hey, Carol! We're glad you found us too! We're big fans of the ellipses too. >_<


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