While my subconscious works out a problem in my romantic comedy, I’ve been editing the first novel I completed—fourteen years ago. As I read, it became apparent I was a little too fond of the em dash. I think I used at least one on every page. So I decided to run a search for them.
In a manuscript of 89,000 words, I’d used 543 em dashes! Seriously. Five hundred forty-three. I wouldn’t have thought that possible.
Don’t get me wrong. The em dash is legitimate punctuation. I use it to indicate an interruption, add emphasis, or a sudden change of thought. For instance:
“If you’re asking me to—”
The man—swear to God—had giggled.
She would trust him again—in time.
The party lasted all night—where were you, by the way?
I could use parentheses, colons, and commas in place of some of the em dashes, but my fiction is usually informal, so the dashes fit.
In my defense, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing in fourteen years. I no longer have such a blatant crush on that bit of punctuation. I kept all the em dashes used to indicate interrupted dialogue, but many of the others were not used to good effect and bit the dust. The total now stands at a more reasonable 384, but I still have rounds of editing to do. And I haven’t checked the ellipsis count, yet.
Do you have a punctuation weakness?
7 thoughts on “Taking an Ax to My Old Flame—”
I LOVE ellipsis. They are my favorite go-to punctuation. I use en-dashes a lot. My critique partner hates them and always wants me to turn them into em-dashes. But I don’t.
Thanks for commenting, Anne. 🙂 I just got around to reading your latest blog post a few minutes ago, and I’ll go back to comment.
Looking at my current writing, it seems I use more ellipses and fewer em dashes than I used to. I understand the rules of usage for those, now. But it’s the comma that I despair of ever learning all the rules for. Then again, as publisher, I can make my own house style. 😉
I tend to use too many exclamation marks! I don’t know why but I just love them!! I usually have to take some out when I edit. But I’m not happy about it!
Exclamation marks are more accepted in your middle grade books, aren’t they, Darlene? I use a lot of them on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂
I do love them and its kind of how I talk. They are perfect for Facebook and Twitter.
Yep, and it’s the semicolon. I know some readers hate the semicolon and are pulled out of a story whenever they see one; however, they’re just so handy.
PS: My blog is very outdated. You don’t need to check it.
Nice to see you again, Ann. 🙂
Yes, I read that about semicolons on a blog the other day. It said too many readers don’t know what a semicolon is. If so, I’d think they’re not the kind of reader who even notices punctuation. That said, I think semicolon use does depend somewhat on the genre.