Search This Blog

Monday, July 21, 2008

Q&A A La Ann Landers: So OK. About Those Em Dashes!

I've been updating the formatting of my newsletter. Yep, that kind of thing is editing, too. This letter started out with a comment on the change of font from Arial to Verdana but then up came that hyphen/en dash/em dash thing. There is a full section on using and formatting these pesky guys in The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Hope you'll use this occasion to learn more about them.



I LOVE Verdana - I do all my writing in it, as it is tremendously easy on
the eyes...on the computer screen. I personally HATE Times New Roman - very
difficult to find errors because of the typeface. But, I always convert to
Times New Roman before I send out a query letter, submission, etc. because
of its popularity with the publishing community.

So, keep up the good work. BTW, what is with all the spaces before and after
a hyphen? Even e-mail showed up as e - mail.-----Katie Hines, Freelance Writer & Children’s Author.


Thank you for your input, Katie. Love it. Yes, as I suggest in the Frugal Editor, better to go with tradition when we're trying to get our work past a gatekeeper! In other cases we get to break rules and maybe, in the process, make some new ones that are better. Glad you love Verdana. I almost settled on Calibri which I like, too, but decided to go with Annette Fix's (author of the Break-Up Diet) recommendation.

As for the hyphens. I checked and my Word copy shows no spaces on either side of the hyphen in the word e-mail or others. So can't tell you what is up with that! Maybe something to do with line breaks or servers. Geesht. who knows?

As for em dashes (those longer dashes we use between ideas and such), I do use spaces on either side of them. This is a style choice for online reading (It is not a rule, but it is often done and sometimes advised). It is never, never done in books or other print, though. I used the spaces before when I was using Arial font but maybe they aren't needed with Verdana. Maybe the wider-spaced Verdana design makes them, mmmmm...obsolete. Thank you! I'll try them without.

(You can subscribe to my weekly newsletter by sending me an e-mail at Put "Subscribe" in the subject line.)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success at Learn more about her other authors' aids at She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at

No comments:

Great Editing Is Great Marketing

Your First Marketing Offense: Write and Edit Great Query Letters