Hi! I’m Kathy Ide. In addition to being a published author, I’m a full-time professional freelance editor. For CAN, I’m blogging about tips for writers based on the most common mistakes I see in the manuscripts I edit.
There are two types of dashes used in book manuscripts:
em dash: —
en dash: –
According to The Chicago Manual of Style and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, an em dash should be used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure. For example:
“Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?”
The em dash is also used to indicate that one person’s speech has been interrupted by another.
“Well,” he began, “I thought I might—”
“Might what?” Jayna interrupted.
The Chicago manual also states that a defining or enumerating complementary element in a sentence may be set off by dashes.
“Suzette could forgive every insult but the last—the snub by her coauthor.”
“Three novelists—Francine Rivers, Angela Elwell Hunt, and Karen Kingsbury—have most influenced my own writing.”
CMOS and CWMS recommend that no more than a single dash (or pair of dashes) be used in a sentence. Dashes should be used sparingly throughout a manuscript.
Most word processors can convert hyphens to dashes. In MS Word, go to Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat. Put a check in “Symbol characters (–) with symbols (—).”
With that option selected, hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys, then hit the hyphen on your numeric keypad to make an em dash.
Or you can type a word (no space after), then type a double-hyphen, then type the next letter or word followed by a space.
Note: For article manuscripts (per the Associated Press Stylebook), insert a space before and after an em dash.
If you’re interested in working with a freelance editor (or know someone who is), e-mail me through the contact page of my website. Or go to the Christian Editor Connection to get referrals to other established, professional editorial freelancers. If you’re a freelance editor yourself, or think you might be interested in that field, check out The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.
And when you’re ready to proofread your manuscript, consider getting a copy of my book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. It reveals how multi-published authors proofread their manuscripts to avoid typos, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and errors in punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website.
If you read or write fiction, check out my new Fiction Lover’s Devotional series! The first book, 21 Days of Grace, released on June 1 and is available at bookstores and online. Details on the series are at www.FictionDevo.com.