The Three Dashes

Like the Three Bears, the Three Dashes have a Papa Dash, Mama Dash, and a Baby Dash.

The Papa Dash is the biggest, or let’s say the longest dash. It’s called an emdash.

The Mama Dash is the medium-sized one and is called an endash.

The Baby Dash is the shortest and the one we are most familiar with, the hyphen.

I’d like to begin with the Mama Dash, the endash, because it’s easily dealt with. It’s mainly used to separate numbers like dates, or if you want to say an amount such as from 3 to 7. The endash replaces the word “to.”

e.g. 1970 – 1980 or about 5 – 10

In Word, I made the endash by typing the number, a space, two dashes, a space, the other number, and a space.

The Baby Dash, hyphen, is used for joining some words that would otherwise be compound words. I trust my dictionary to tell me which words are compound words, such as “newspaper” and “desktop,” and which are hyphenated words such as “long-term.” This hyphen, though small, can be very important. Consider the compound word “housekeeper” and the hyphenated word, “house-keeper.” The housekeeper would be a person who does a lot of work to keep the house tidy, while the house-keeper could refer to someone like Zsa-Zsa Gabor, who called herself the best house-keeper ever. She was married several times and when her marriages ended she usually kept the house.

The hyphen is also used to connect words that describe a noun.

Here are some examples:

Most are hyphenated before, but not after a noun.

(adjective and noun) He had a high-maintenance girlfriend.

But his girlfriend was high maintenance.

(adjective and participle) We drove on a snow-covered highway.

But the highway was snow covered.

Other uses for the hyphen are for numbers and fractions.

e.g. two-thirds, twenty-seven

And now for the Papa Dash, the emdash. This one is easily overused.

The emdash is the long dash that is most often used for interruptions. There should be no space before or after it, and it is made (in Word) by typing the word, two dashes, the next word and then a space. The emdash will automatically form when you hit that last space.

Uses of emdashes are mainly for interruptions, as in dialogue, or as an emphatic aside. Here are examples of each:

“But I want—”

“I don’t care what you want.”

When I got home he had the house cleaned—he’s such a sweetheart—and even had supper ready.

Don’t be tempted to use the emdash for hesitation or pauses, and be stingy with its use. Too many emdashes on a page can make the text look chopped up. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of your writing unnecessarily. If you use it sparingly, it will be that much more effective when you do use it.

Thanks for reading, and now, excuse me please, but I must dash.

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

anneli-new-footer-c-1024x652-1

Watch for this one

copyediting1

Filtering is a habit we probably all had to shake at one time or another.

Some expressions have a diluting effect. If you are “filtering” words through the character’s senses—smell, touch, taste, hearing, or sight, you are most likely guilty of “telling” the reader what is happening. There is no need to filter the experiences through the character’s eyes, ears, or other sensory receptors.

Filtered: She saw the car go by. (The action passes through her eyes first.)

Unfiltered: The car whizzed by.

 

Filtered: She felt upset.(The action passes through her emotions.)

Unfiltered: She sobbed.

 

Filtered: She heard the sound of a train. (The action passes through her ears.)

Unfiltered: A train whistle broke the silence.

***

I’m sure you get the idea. Some of the following key words may help us to watch for filtering.

This is only a partial list of filter words. There are many, many more.

  • saw
  • heard
  • felt
  • remembered
  • tasted
  • recalled
  • looked
  • smelled

If you see one of these words in your writing, take a second look and decide whether you are filtering the action through one of the senses. If you are, you could probably get rid of the filter and rewrite the sentence in a stronger, more direct way.

 

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

anneli-new-footer-c-1024x652-1

Lose the Weak Writing

copyediting1

Weak Expressions

Weak expressions such as “seemed to,” “started to,” and “began to” can slow down your writing  and make it lose its punch. These unnecessary words become filler that dilutes your writing and diminishes its effectiveness.

e.g. Jane seemed to be sad/angry/depressed/worried.

This sentence is also an example of another mistake many authors make. For whatever reason, the writer has drawn a conclusion about the character’s feelings and is “telling” the reader, rather than “showing” how the character feels.

Why not “show” Jane’s anger instead of telling about it? You could say, “Jane clenched her teeth,” or “She balled her hands into fists.” The reader now has an image in his mind and can draw his own conclusions, something that pulls him into the story and brings him more satisfaction than being told would do.

e.g. Tom appeared to be enjoying his meal.

Or: Tom smacked his lips and cleaned the last bit of gravy from the bowl with his fingers.

“Seemed,” “appeared,” “started to,” and “began to” are ineffective expressions that tell the reader nothing. Avoid these and similar expressions.

 Using vague or summarizing expressions:

Vague:

Alice started to clean the kitchen.

Stronger, with more detail:

Alice picked up the dirty dishes and took them to the sink.

Vague:

Sandra began to make a fire.

Stronger:

Sandra chopped kindling, crumpled yesterday’s newspaper, and lit the fire.

*****

Check the writing you did today. Did you find any weak, telling, or summarizing expressions?

The bottom line for today:

Lose the vagueness, add the punch, and provide an image for the reader to build on.

*****

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

anneli-new-footer-c-1024x652-1

Troublesome Expressions

As a copy editor, I come across many expressions that writers use incorrectly. The list of troublesome words and expressions could fill many pages, so I have chosen a few that many writers struggle with. I have not dealt with lay and lie, which are particularly problematic. These verbs have been dealt with in an article all to themselves under the title Lie, Lady, Lie.

Advice/advise

Advice is the noun. I give advice. Advise is the verb. I advise you to take my advice.

Affect, effect

Affect is the verb. Effect is the noun, but it can be used as a verb as well.

How does this change affect you?

What effect does it have on you?

By working together we can effect (bring about) some changes.

Aggravate

This word means to make worse, not to annoy or to anger.

Alright

The proper term is all right. I see alright used frequently, especially by American writers, but that spelling is best avoided.

Amount, number

Amount is for a mass. Number is for countable items.

Anyways, anywheres, everywheres, nowheres, somewheres

These are non-standard forms. Drop the “s.”

Awhile, abit, alot

Two words — a while, a bit, and a lot.

Between, among

Between is used with two people (This is between John and me). Among is used for three or more (We’ll divide the food among the townspeople).

Breath, breathe

Breath is the noun and breathe is the verb.

Someday, I will breathe my last breath.

Continual, continuous

Continual means again and again, while continuous means ongoing.

I could care less.

Usually the writer means the opposite of what this sentence says. Most likely, what is meant is I couldn’t care less.

Envelop, envelope

Envelop means to wrap around. Envelope is the folder you put a letter in.

I will envelop you in my arms when you give me the envelope with the money in it.

Less, fewer

Just as with amount and number, less is used for a mass (an amount) and fewer is used for something countable.

Loath, loathe

Loath is the adjective. Loathe is the verb.

I was loath to do the dishes because I loathe that job.

Of

Not necessary after the prepositions inside, off, and outside.

Incorrect as a substitute for have, as in would have, could have, and should have.

Reason why

Usually there is no need for the why.

True facts

Facts are always true, so true facts has no real meaning. Just use the word facts by itself.

Very

In most cases, very is easily omitted and not missed.

With regards to

What the writer usually means is with regard to. This expression is often not necessary, only adding wordiness to the writing, but when written as with regards to, it sounds as if the writer is adding a greeting to someone.

*****

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

anneli-new-footer-c-1024x652-1

The Dreaded Cliché

Useless words, tired and worn out, contributing little to the richness of the writing–that’s what clichés are all about. So why do we have them? I suppose there was a time when clichés were fresh and new and, sparingly used, they added a certain zip to the sauce of writing, but most of these prefabricated phrases are now considered redundant, overused, or, worse yet, misused.

When I first began writing seriously, my early efforts were sprinkled with many clichés.

My critiquers waggled their fingers at me. “No,no, no! You can’t do that! Clichés must not be used in good writing.”

“But why not? We talk that way,” I protested.

“That’s true,” they said, “and that’s almost the only time it’s okay to use a cliché–in dialogue.”

It took me a while to see what they were talking about and in time I, too, developed a horror of those overused and abused, pointlessly distracting and detracting phrases.

Just for fun, I thought I would write a short and silly story, using as many clichés as I could manage to squeeze in. I’ve marked them in red and green to make it easier for you to pick them out. If you’re brave enough to read to the end, I doubt you will ever want to use a cliché in your writing again.

Here we go:

The Doomed Woodcutter 

Like a bolt out of the blue, George appeared on the horizon and walked down the road. The man with a heart as big as all outdoors came down the road to take care of business as a matter of course.

As a matter of fact, he had crossed the field to the house as the crow flies. He’d hoped the homeowners would come out to see him, but as a last resort he knocked on the door. He wanted to be paid for his firewood today, but receiving no answer he beat a hasty retreat.

He’d been busy as a bee from dawn to dusk, cutting firewood. The stack had grown by leaps and bounds. Conspicuous by his absence, the son was of no help to him.

He had hoped his son would show up but he was doomed to disappointment. Not having been paid, he headed into town instead to get a loan from the powers that be in the corridors of power. Gaining access was easier said than done, since he was wearing his work clothes.

He had worked his fingers to the bone and was dog-tired. He had grown up gentle as a lamb and good as gold, but if and when it would all pay off and the chickens came home to roost, in a manner of speaking he knew that his wife still would not appreciate it. Any news of a promotion or pay raise would go in one ear and out the other.

In the long run, his wife got tired of him and one day when it was pouring buckets, she said, “We have to talk turkey.” It goes without saying that the moment of truth had come and she gave him the boot and tossed him out on his ear with all his belongings, lock, stock, and barrel.

Somewhere down the road, off the beaten track, he found a new, younger woman who, needless to say, was smart as a whip. Since it was love at first sight, he decided that he would strike while the iron was hot and ask her to tie the knot. It stands to reason, that because she came from the wrong side of the tracks, when all was said and done, in no way, shape, or form would she turn him down.

On the day of the wedding, who should arrive but the useless son, one and the same, last but not least. It was already raining cats and dogs, but a rude awakening reared its ugly head when slowly but surely, the son, strong as an ox, stood up in the congregation and told his father, “It goes without saying that you can’t marry her. She’s got a bun in the oven and it’s mine.”

The wedding plans were nipped in the bud, and in time, George gave up his job to look after his pride and joy, Georgina, the grandchild with many and diverse ways to wrap everyone around her little finger. She was sharp as a tack and cool as a cucumber, always getting her own way. She was the spit and image of her mother and used to calling the shots. She was on the right track and that was par for the course.

*****

I once heard someone ask a mother how her daughter was doing in the new school, since they had only recently moved to town and it was the middle of the school year.

She said, “Oh, thanks for asking. She’s liking it well enough, but she’s finding it hard to make friends because all the girls in her class have already formed their clichés and it’s hard to break into their groups once they’re formed.”

She meant “cliques,” of course. So you see, even the word cliché itself can be misused. STEER clear of clichés as much as possible.

*****

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

Twitter
Facebook
Blog

anneli-new-footer-c-1024x652-1

Writing Do’s and Don’ts – by Barb Beacham

I’d like you to meet Barb Beacham, whom some of you may know from her blog  at http://salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com/

(I think she’s cheating with her selfie. We can’t really see our mystery guest clearly, but she’s a bit shy.)

Selfie

Here is Barb with some of her ideas and tips about writing:

Thank you, Anneli, for inviting me to share about writing with you and your followers.

I have been writing for years. My ideas come to me at the most unexpected moments. When I see something and it strikes a chord, I write it down. You would not believe the pile of notes I have. There are notes on napkins, post-it notes, and on the backside of envelopes. I have since learned…First rule: Always carry something to write on and something to write with.

This leads to watching and experiencing. You have to watch life in order to understand it. You also have to experience it, with all of its rough edges and smooth spots, as well as those that are just a hmmm…People-watching leads to an understanding of human nature, and animal nature too. It is easier to write about something that you have experienced and places you have been, rather than  just making something up. I am an avid reader and I can tell you it is always apparent when the writer does not have knowledge.

When experiencing a moment in time, ask yourself, “Where will this go next?” I was sitting in an airport at a gate area that did not look like what all of us are used to. Everyone was sitting on the floor. A man walked into this area with a toy monkey on a tube that had a bulb on the end. All he said to us was, “Ninos.” Let’s look at this and ask: Was he selling a toy for kids? Was it a device that would detonate on the plane? Or, could the toy be possessed by the devil?

Write about what you know. Sure, you can tweak a situation to make it work for you. That is what fiction is all about. Write about places that you have been. This is certainly easier than dreaming up a world, like Tolkien did, which by the way was brilliant. Maybe Middle Earth was based on his surrounding area? Can’t you just hear him say to himself, “Doesn’t that mountain over there, with the cut off top, the rugged hillside, and the glow of the rising sun behind it, look like Mt. Doom?”

Face your fear of writing and being criticized. Not everyone is going to like what you write, but many others will appreciate it. Look at all the negativity that Hunter S. Thompson got on his articles and books. They still made a movie out of that book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” The book was great, the film…not so good. Crazy as it was – the book that is – it was a journey that was one man’s adventure. Did you have any of those when you were young that were so crazy it brings a smile to yourself today?

Beware: Do not create characters, or name them, with something that identifies that person in a way that others will recognize. Blend instead. Blend your unreasonable mother with the sweet lady who baked you cookies when you were a kid.

Have a plan. Seems like a lot of work, but it will be worth it. This plan is the road map to your writing. Take all those notes you have collected and set them in an order that makes sense. Those that don’t? Use them for something else. You do not have to write in order of that map. You can write where the wind blows you. In the end, make sure that it works. Ask a friend to read it with a critical eye.

And then there’s passion.  Passion is a huge driving force in writing.  It helps you to pull what you have inside yourself out and into the words.  If you are passionate about the project, the words will flow.

Regarding writer’s block:  When you hit that wall, step away from what you are doing and take a walk, bake some cookies, just do something else for a while.  You need to step away from writing in order for that flow to come back.  Don’t be discouraged over this.  Mark Twain stepped away from “The Adventures Huckleberry Finn” for a couple of years.  He was midway through the book when he did this.

Nothing drives me crazier than reading a book, a published book, that has grammar errors and typos. Check, re-check, and re-check again. Use a software program that will review that too. Be aware that words do sometimes get bypassed because they are spelled correctly, but the usage is wrong. Another reason to have someone else who is good with your native language review your writing.

The last thing that you need to do is practice writing. Flash fiction challenges are good for this. You have to write a story with a limited number of words (make sure you stick to that limit) that has a beginning, middle and end. I would love to see what you write and will help you. Please visit my flash fiction site Mondays Finish the Story.

*****

I thank Barb Beacham for her insights into her writing. What about you, dear Reader? Your comments are always welcome on my blog. Please “add your two bits’ worth.” We’d love to know what you think.