Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blogging from #AtoZChallenge - eM dash and Maya

Today's grammar portion of the post is easy. It takes longer to create the em dash properly in MS Word. An em dash is used to set off an interruptive word or phrase within a sentence. There are other ways to do this, including commas or parentheses.

Maya's favorite method of escaping working--a hard left turn--occasionally left me sitting on the ground.

The em dash is comprised of two dashes with no surrounding spaces. When you type them into Word, at the point you hit the space bar after the word following the double dashes, Word converts the two short dashes into a single long dash. The em dash.

If you're picky about the way things look when editing, you sometimes have to play games to make Word do the conversion or you're left with the double dash seen above in this post. I edit for grammar and visual aesthetics as I go (my only form of OCD, can't fix it!) and it would drive me nuts to leave the double dash. So I go back and put a fake letter and space after the dash, then delete them after Word converts.

A slightly more complex situation is when an em dash is used to indicate an interruption in dialogue.

"What a beautiful trail--" I choked as Maya leapt sideways up the twelve-foot-high ravine.

To get Word to convert to the em dash AND point the end quotes in the right direction, hit the dash twice, then some random letter, then a space. Word does the conversion. Back space and put the end quotes after the random letter, then delete the random letter.

Umm, I figured this out the hard way cuz it would make me itch to leave it ugly. Do you know a better way to do this? I was hoping ctrl-alt-M like ctrl-alt-. makes ellipses. Nope. I'd love a cleaner method to type it right in one shot.

What methods do you use for your editing software? Are they all so crazy?

And now to the left-turn devil herself. This is Maya. She's a 14.1H (pony-sized) half-arab, half Paint mare. I got her in trade for a crappy saddle. She tried her best to buck me off the day I looked at her, but I still brought her home. Whenever we rode away from home, she'd fight like crazy to go home for the first mile or two. Then she'd give up and try to run down the other horses. Her favorite trick was a high-speed left turn. I never did find the cell phone I lost from one of them.

But for a little girl, she could climb up a nearly vertical ravine carrying a rider. She's now owned by an endurance rider in Wyoming and last year got second place for the highest number of miles by an LD horse. LD is limited distance. 25-30 miles per day instead of 50 or 100 for regular endurance distances. She's an amazing little horse (just don't tell her she's little!) She also loved to jump. I've got some great pics of her jumping, but my scanner is broken.


  1. --never heard of the m dash, I think I use it a fair amount though, but not in a specific program. Why would you want to change it to 1 long dash in your word program?

    1. Technically it's supposed to be a long dash because it is different from the hyphen. And Word does it's best, it just gets confused when editing previous text.

  2. Hi Marlene, and thanks for the visit. I hope you got my reply earlier. I can see where you're coming from here. With regard to an interruption in dialogue, I've found myself using the hyphen straight after the final word, no space. I have final word, hyphen, comma, quotation mark.
    I remember trying the double-dash thing; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, so I'll have to check out your method. It brings back vague memories of doing something similar. Good info.

  3. I do all of the things you describe in this post, right down to figuring out how to interrupt dialogue. I think we must have been OCD sisters in another life--or maybe this one! The em-dash is one of my favorite (or at least most frequently used) punctuation marks. Loved this post--it made me feel much less alone. :)