PARENTHESES VS. THE EM DASH

11536125606_4fffb24ccf

 

THE PARENTHESES:

Use parentheses to enclose information that clarifies or is used as an aside.

He gave me a check for my birthday ($100).

Periods go inside parentheses only if an entire sentence is inside the parentheses.

Please read the book. (You’ll be astounded.)

THE EM DASH:

The em dash is the most versatile of all punctuation marks. It can be used instead of commas, semicolons, parentheses, or quotation marks. 

The em dash () sets off a word or clause and adds emphasis. Or, it can signal either an interruption or amplification of an idea.

You can put a space on both sides of it, as found in most newspapers, or leave a space following it. What matters is that you are consistent—throughout your article or book—to do it the same way each time. 

The em dash provides a more casual tone and look than a semicolon.

It can also be used to substitute for a missing word or words, such as swear words. However, personally, I use the ellipses (…) for this purpose.

Em dashes are also used as interruptors in sentences—mostly in blogs and digital content—to add a casual and conversational tone when writing online. They can be used to insert commentary on what is written, add a short joke or witty comment, or to add an example to your information. 

So, is there a battle going on between the parenthesis and the em dash? Perhaps even the semi-colon?

There doesn’t have to be.

Use whatever you are most comfortable with—but don’t overdo the use of any particular punctuation. They disrupt the reader’s train of thought.

And—they—can—be—annoying!

A sprinkling here and there are permissible. And, authors often find using them to help with the flow of ideas when writing. 

Inquiring minds want to know:  Why is it called the “em dash”? It is the width of the letter M.

That’s What it Sounds Like

**This is a requested reprint from 4-14-19.
6872071078_077e194f6f

 

I’m in editing mode this week. Specifically, I am unsure about the use of italics.

Yes, I understand that they are used to denote titles, and foreign words. They are also used for book titles, poems, plays, television shows, musical compositions, newspapers, radio podcasts, names of ships, and airplanes.

The list goes on and on (See the 7th edition of the MLA handbook for more of the above.)

However, here, I want to share about the three most common uses of italics by authors.

The first is to show emphasis for readers. For example, “She dated five men at the same time.” If you italicize the word “five,” it helps to emphasize the fact that you feel this is extraordinary and you don’t want your reader to miss it. Thus, the sentence would read, “She dated five men at the same time.”

The second is to set apart a character’s inner thoughts and/or  dreams. This avoids confusion for readers by signaling that those words were not spoken out loud. Longer italicized portions of text show the reader that the character is dreaming. This is important because otherwise they may think that those actions are taking place in the here and now.

Finally, I come to the rule that has been confusing me as I give my own manuscript a final pass. That is, should sounds be italicized?

I did some research and I found the answer to be very simple:

The name of a sound does not get italicized, but the sound itself does.

Here is an example:  The dog growled. (I named the sound, so no italics.) vs. “Grrr” (this is the actual sound, so it should be italicized).

Simple?

That’s what it sounds like to me.

 

That’s What it Sounds Like

6872071078_077e194f6f

 

I’m in editing mode this week. Specifically, I am unsure about the use of italics.

Yes, I understand that they are used to denote titles, and foreign words. They are also used for book titles, poems, plays, television shows, musical compositions, newspapers, radio podcasts, names of ships, and airplanes.

The list goes on and on (See the 7th edition of the MLA handbook for more of the above.)

However, here, I want to share about the three most common uses of italics by authors.

The first is to show emphasis for readers. For example, “She dated five men at the same time.” If you italicize the word “five,” it helps to emphasize the fact that you feel this is extraordinary and you don’t want your reader to miss it. Thus, the sentence would read, “She dated five men at the same time.”

The second is to set apart a character’s inner thoughts and/or  dreams. This avoids confusion for readers by signaling that those words were not spoken out loud. Longer italicized portions of text show the reader that the character is dreaming. This is important because otherwise they may think that those actions are taking place in the here and now.

Finally, I come to the rule that has been confusing me as I give my own manuscript a final pass. That is, should sounds be italicized? 

I did some research and I found the answer to be very simple:

The name of a sound does not get italicized, but the sound itself does. 

Here is an example:  The dog growled. (I named the sound, so no italics.) vs. “Grrr” (this is the actual sound, so it should be italicized).

Simple?

That’s what it sounds like to me.