Who cares about hyphens, commas and capital letters? You should.
In an era of chaotic change, ‘The Chicago Manual of Style’ fights against written mayhem

Our office bible. The 17th edition is now out!

In an era when all rules seem to be forgotten, “Chicago” reemerges to remind us: There are ways to express yourself responsibly. Are you trying to express ideas so that others can understand them? Certain rules and principles help you do so; here they are.

What’s Up with the Hyphen, the En Dash, and the Em Dash?

A hyphen (-) is used to join words (e.g., “mother-in-law”) or to separate the syllables of the same word, e.g., at the end of a line if the word doesn’t fit:

⚠️ Never put a space before or after a hyphen.

ℹ️ NOTE: When it comes to en dashes and em dashes, different style guides (e.g., Associated Press, Chicago Manual of Style, Guardian) have different rules and preferences, so if you are required to adhere to a certain style, you should consult the appropriate guide.

Style preferences aside, an en dash () is slightly wider than a hyphen, and it usually replaces “to” between a range of numbers:

  • Although it is generally viewed that a space before and after an en dash is optional, you should ask your teacher what he or she prefers.
  • An en dash got its name because it is the width of an n.
  • 💡To make an en dash on a Mac, push option and - at the same time.

An em dash () is the widest of the three. It can be used in place of a colon, commas, and parentheses:

We can also use an em dash to express the source of a quotation:

Lastly, em dashes can show that a speaker has been interrupted. (This usage will come in handy if you’re writing dialogue or fiction.)

  • Similar to the first bullet point regarding en dashes, you should ask your teacher if he or she wants a space before and after an em dash; different teachers will give different answers.
  • An em dash got its name because it is the width of an m.
  • 💡 To make an em dash on a Mac, push option + shift + - at the same time.

The above explanations give you a big picture look at hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. When it comes to the fine details (e.g., putting spaces before and after a dash), consult your teacher or his or her preferred style guide. 👍

writingbiologi  asked:

I never really thought of it before, but do you know the prober use of n- and m-dashes, I'm not sure I fully understand it?

I do! And I’m so glad you came to me for an answer! I hope you’ll indulge me a full exploration.

The Chicago Manual of Style, which is a slightly-longer-than-1,000-page book on grammar and its proper usage, is one of the main guides that publishing houses use to ensure consistent usage across all their published works. It’s a behemoth of a book and sometimes difficult to understand, but it’s a great place to start for technicalities like this, and I still happen to have my copy of the most recent 16th edition from my time at a press.

The technical nitty-gritty:

The CMS defines em dashes and en dashes as the following:

em dash: A short typographical rule measuring the width of an em.

en dash: A short typographical rule measuring the width of an en.

Excellent. And completely unhelpful, thank you CMS.

Both of these definitions require understanding what an em and an en are, respectively, so let’s define those. Now, typefaces, or fonts, are measured in points, right–the default most folks go with is 12pt font. “Points” are how we measure the space each letter takes up within that font, and 1 point measures 1/72″ (0.01384 of an inch, if you want to be precise). Okay, that in mind:

em: A unit of type (font) measurement equal to the point size of the type (font) in question. If you’re typing in 12pt font, then your em is the length of 12 points.

en: A unit of type (font) measurement half the size of an em. If you’re typing in 12pt font and your em is 12 points, then your en is half that: 6 points.

Now, as units of measurement, em and en often help to define the length of various things in typed and printed materials. There are em spaces, en dashes, etc, and in the end, all it means is that one is double the length of the other. And then, of course, you’ve got hyphens which are even shorter than en dashes. So what’s the point? Why do we use them and when? (And this time I’m not talking about font size.)

When do we use hyphens?

MOST COMMON USAGE: compound modifiers/adjectives.

Hyphens are generally used to create compound modifiers. When we’re describing another thing such as a country that speaks English, it can be described as an English-speaking country. The reason it becomes a compound modifier and gets hyphenated is because when we take each part of the modifier and apply them separately to the thing they’re describing (English country, and speaking country), they are either incorrect, don’t make sense, or don’t accurately describe the sentiment behind the statement. They must be together to be accurate and correct, so they get hyphenated together (English-speaking).

Take one more example: The description “a dictionary-wielding professor” in a sentence would not be “a dictionary wielding professor” because the professor is neither “a dictionary professor” nor “a wielding professor.” They are instead a professor wielding a dictionary, therefore the compound modifier should be hyphenated.

The same concept applies with a phrasal descriptor such as “a never-before-seen magic.” It is magic, and it is also never-before-seen, but it’s neither a never magic nor a seen magic; the entire descriptor is “never-before-seen.” Or “a dog-eat-dog competition,” as the CMS provides.

Of course, there are a bunch of other reasons to use hyphens, too, including enhancing readability for some words whose prefixes make the word unwieldy, but compound modifiers are usually the most complicated for writers.

When do we use en dashes?

MOST COMMON USAGE: ranges such as dates, times, page numbers, etc.

Mostly, en dashes get used in place of “up to and including” for things like dates, times, and page numbers. Things like, “Read chapters 11–16,” uses an en dash, and also with number ranges where the range is unfinished, such as birth and death dates where the death is unknown or hasn’t occurred: Emma Bull (1954–).

The en dash can also be used when talking about institutions of higher education who have the same name, but different campuses: Minnesota State University–Moorhead and Minnesota State University–Mankato.

The CMS does specify some usages of the en dash with compound adjectives like hyphens, however it’s an editorial nicety and not something to worry about. It’s very technical when you can do this, so stick with hyphens and if an editor wants to change it, that’s their prerogative. In fact, the CMS states: “Ensuring proper use of the en dash is usually considered the manuscript editor’s responsibility; authors can generally avoid the en dash and use hyphens instead” (CMS 2.13, pg. 60). Hyphens are the way to go with compound adjectives.

When do we use em dashes?

MOST COMMON USAGE: off-setting/emphasizing information such as an aside or where parentheses might also be used || interruptions of thought and/or dialogue.

Em dashes are the most common of dashes (the hyphen not actually qualifying as a dash specifically). It gets used “to set off an amplifying or explanatory element and in that sense can function as an alternative to parentheses, commas, and colons—especially when an abrupt break in thought is called for” (CMS 6.82, pg. 333). The em dash is what’s used in pretty much everything, and probably any writing post I’ve ever written has one, given that I type much the way I speak. Anytime you put in two hyphens, Microsoft Word often corrects this to an em dash, and whenever I type two dashes in my posts, I mean an em dash, I’m just too lazy to do the Alt-code to actually put in the em dash.

Whether you choose to use em dashes or parentheses for your asides in your narratives is up to you and your personal style. I know that I flip flop back and forth depending on what feels right, but as long as you’re consistent within your own work, you’re fine with either one.

Additionally, we sometimes have sentence that’re phrased in a way where neither side is a complete sentence, and where a comma might be one way to punctuate it. A writer may choose to use an em dash to emphasize it instead: “Darkness, thunder, a sudden scream—nothing alarmed the child.” Sometimes names are also offset this way in sentences: “Alie—that was her name, wasn’t it?”

Sudden breaks in thought or purposeful breaks in sentences such as interruptions or a rephrasing of thought can use an em dash, too: “Will he—can he—recover?” “I don’t know! I just thought, maybe—” “Maybe? He might?”

Question marks and exclamation marks can precede an em dash, but commas, colons, and semicolons never do. Periods very rarely do. Instead, em dashes take the place of those commas, colons, semicolons, and periods.

Some European writing standards use em dashes in place of dialogue quotation marks, indicating new speakers at the beginning of the dialogue:

—Where are we going?
—South. That’s where the ports are, and we need a boat.

Other em dashes:

MOST COMMON USAGE: missing or omitted words || bibliographies.

There are also 2-em dashes and 3-em dashes.

2-em dashes are used in omitted words such as expletives, names, or missing words, word parts, or illegible words: “Lady R——, whose home on the banks of the Guileless —— was the most elegant of those at the time.”

The 3-em dash appears pretty much exclusively in bibliographies, representing the same author or editor named in the preceding entry, and ONLY for an author or editor.

So there you go, my curious friend. Mostly, you’re using em dashes.

If you’re curious, an en dash’s keyboard code is ALT-0150 and an em dash’s code is ALT-0151. What appears as a key on your keyboard is a hyphen. Most computers replace two hyphens with an em dash, and if it doesn’t it’s generally accepted typing slang for it.

Hopefully that’s clarified it a little bit, even inside all the technical definitions. Let me know if I can help with any more examples or if I can describe it in another way. Thanks for the question!

(A table of contents is available. This series will remain open for additional posts and the table of contents up-to-date as new posts are added.)

Part Eight: More Than Tags

[all text examples used are from my The Steel Token and the Silver Scissors.]

Dialogue tags are as common as mud. We all know them; we talk about them all the time; any time somebody talks about dialogue, there they are. I’m not going to keep slapping that water. What I actually want to talk about are the parts of sentences we add on to the tags. Now, I have a degree in publishing; my Chicago Manual of Style lives in a special place on my bookshelf; I edited stuff, screened stuff, so really I should know the answer to this, but I’m not going to lie. I don’t know what these are technically called, but I’m going to call them remainder sentences and no one can stop me.

A standard dialogue tag generally looks something like this:

“You can’t stop me,” she said.

Plain and simple, nothing more or less than what’s required for the situation. Sticking with the basics is great for moving the story along, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. If this is all that’s needed, no problem.

Sometimes, however, there are other things we need to convey, and sometimes the best place to put them is right with our tag. Timing of events is perhaps the most important of the uses for remainder sentences and dialogue tags. Where we place them in relation to our speech and how they’re structured as a whole can tell an audience all kinds of things.

Simultaneous action: Sometimes, we talk and do all in the same moment. To signal that timing to the audience, it’s common practice to use the “-ing” ending to a verb; following standard sentence convention, a comma appears after the tag, before the verb:

“You don’t want it, fine,” she called, dropping it in a water trough.

By containing both the words and the action within the same sentence, we signal to the audience that these happen simultaneously.

We can also play with this idea when actions happen while a character is speaking, but the character doesn’t realize they’re going on:

“Shey–” I started, but she’d gone.

Combining the actions into the same sentence as the dialogue cues the reader into the simultaneous nature of the two moments, while the use of interruptions in the dialogue and the conjunction ‘but’ lets your audience know not just the timing but also how another character reacts to that action or not.

Simultaneous action can also be shown through insertion of a tag or remainder line into the middle of a sentence:

“How would you know that if it’s taken twenty years for these–” she tugged on the foliage, “–to grow since they last used it?”

The implication here with the em-dashes is that the character pauses to perform the action, but that doesn’t have to be the case. You may also choose to use commas all the way through, indicating that the action takes place while the character speaks:

“How would you know that if it’s taken twenty years for these,” she said, tugging on the foliage, “to grow since they last used it?”

Pre- and post- actions: Sometimes, actions and speech are dependent on each other; an action prompts a line of dialogue or something someone says prompts someone to do something. If the actions and dialogue are closely related, it makes a lot of sense to combine them by making your action a remainder sentence to the dialogue:

Sheytana leaned an ear against the door again, then whispered, “I can hear movement but it’s muffled.”

By using ‘then,’ the audience is aware that the action took place very distinctly prior to the speech, rather than at the same time. The opposite can be conveyed to readers by placing the tag and remainder line at the end of the dialogue for actions that take place after the speech. In the above, it’s also interesting to note that the action and the dialogue are performed by the same character. Sometimes, different characters perform those two things, which must be clarified within the remainder line and dialogue tag:

We recovered our footing, I snagged his hand, and I hissed, “Grab the girl. Let’s go.”

The above has a list of actions taken, including the dialogue tag at the end. This could be restructured so that the first item–”We recovered our footing.”–appears alone, as its own sentence, however, due to the pacing of the scene, these three components occur together, but two of them are only participated in by one person–the narrator. Be sure to clarify your ambiguous pronouns on sentences like these so the audience knows exactly who’s speaking. You wouldn’t want to say, “We recovered our footing, and hissed, ‘Grab the girl,’” because then all those included in the “we” would be speaking, too.

Tonality: Another thing we can convey to our readers through remainder lines is how something is said. Yes, dialogue tags do this too, especially when a writer chooses to use tags other than “said,” but the way a sentence is constructed with its tag can also speak to the way it’s spoken:

“Sir,” he drawled. “Don’t see you here often.”

Scenes are made up of beats, and dialogue is not different. The pauses characters take are just as important as what they do. By ending the tag with a period and not connecting through with a comma, the implication is that the character takes a beat and pauses before saying his last line. By comparison:

“Sir,” he drawled, “we don’t see you here often.”

This structure implies a different tonality in the way it’s spoken, all at once rather than taking the significant pause given to the previous line by the period.

Length: The length of a remainder line is crucial. By having a remainder line at all added to your dialogue and dialogue tags, you’ve already built a complex, compound sentence. The more complex the sentence, the more difficult it can be to follow–especially depending on the punctuation and structure you give it. Keeping your remainder lines short will help with clarity and flow. Separate out any sentences you can into their own entities. If your remainder lines are more than about 20-or-so words, you’re probably verging on too long. Remainder lines may be your first place to stop, examine, and rewrite if your story starts to feel off in terms of pacing and flow.

Next up: Real life dialogue!

anonymous asked:

Aw, cripes, am I doing it wrong by capitalizing ranks when they're not used in conjunction with the character's name? As in, 'Admiral [name] did this and that' and a few lines later '"That is a bad idea" the Admiral said'?

If your story is fiction then it depends on your world I suppose, but grammatically speaking, you only capitalize a rank if it’s used in conjunction with a name. Otherwise, the rank is lowercase. 

Captain Miller was given the assignment to rescue Private Ryan. 

Though the captain had never met Ryan, he and his men traversed miles of enemy territory in search of the private.

Similarly, while we would capitalize the U.S. Army, we would not capitalize “the army.” You can see a few more examples on the Chicago Manual of Style

Internally some army desk jockeys may capitalize random words like Soldier and Corps to add…emphasis? importance…? but grammatically speaking, all of that’s incorrect. 


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Book Recommendations

We’ve received a few messages asking about our summer book recommendations. Our list contains literary classics as well as a selection of coming-of-age books, which are great for that extra-long summer before matriculating into the university.  

In no particular order of preference, here is our list:

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The millennial generation is infamously noted as being more vain than generations past.  Dorian Gray explores the idea that beauty isn’t everything, and that, in the words of Beyoncé, “pretty hurts.”

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

A satirical novella about the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, Animal Farm brings together the best parts of fairy tales and history. It proves, using farm animals as the main characters, that “no one man pig should have all that power.”

3. Catcher in Rye by J.D. Salinger

Some regard Holden Caufield as a sympathetic character, while others say he’s a spoiled brat.  Either way, they’re missing the core subject of the book: coping with the passage of time and the loss of innocence and childlike wonder.  This is a good coming-of-age tale that’s worth reading if you haven’t already!

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Tartt describes the coming of age of protagonist Theo Decker.  After the death of his mother, Theo must struggle to navigate the challenges of adolescence alone.  Theo makes it to adulthood by the end of the novel, but it isn’t an easy ride.

5. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

In The Magicians, Grossman creates a magical world to rival Harry Potter.  The reader follows the adventures of Quentin Coldwater as he transforms into a magician and adult. This fast-paced read is not only entertaining, but also speaks to larger themes of literature’s place in one’s life. 

6.  The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

What do the Ferris Wheel and murder have in common?  The 1893 World’s Fair.  Leading up to 1893 Chicagoans felt they had to amaze the world following the unveil of the Eiffel Tower at the previous World’s Fair.  In the shadows of the beauty and innovation of the Fair, a murderer lurks. 

7. The Chicago Manual of Style 

In this eminent style guide, the University of Chicago Press outlines the proper usage of the English language.  While it may not always be the most stimulating read, it adds clarity and precision to your prose.

Guide to The Basics of Story Writing

           A common theme that runs through fanfiction writers is the fact that none of us were ever actually taught how to write stories before we started writing them. Through reading books and other fanfictions, we learned how to correctly write stories. Or incorrectly, as it sometimes is.

           There’s nothing wrong with this. Unless you actually attend a workshop or class for creative story writing, you’re likely never to learn the grammar rules (unless your type of light reading is the Chicago Manual of Style). I know I’m constantly correcting myself on things even though I consider myself to know proper grammar.

           So that is to say that what I say here may not be 100% accurate to what you have been taught. This is what I was taught (I attend a university for Creative Writing and work as a proofreader for a small press so I have some knowledge), and people learn differently. I am an American, so perhaps in other English-speaking countries grammar rules are different. I honestly do not know. This is not the end all and be all. But this will be a guide to those who have always wondered how to write “correctly” (again, there are multiple correct ways according to who you ask, but this will all definitely be one correct way) or maybe for those who are not native English speakers who have graced us single-language-only speakers with their talent and would like to know more.

           So, first off, I am going to be using example sentences from a fanfiction I wrote called Prince of Christmas from December of 2015. I’ll probably be editing sentences I wrote over half a year ago as I go through this for things to be correctly formatted. This guide is not in any way geared towards any specific ship or fandom, nor do I discuss any ship or fandom. I just chose a long fic of mine written semi-recently that I could pull examples from. This guide can help any and all fandom and non-fandom writers.

           The sections I discuss, in order, are dialogue, quoting, paragraphs, indenting, commas, run-on sentences, semicolons, em dashes and ellipses, italics, NSFW, perspective and tense, editing options, posting, and resources.

           Let us begin.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

I'm a junior in college, and I've just declared my art history major. I've taken a few art history classes in freshman and sophomore years, but the info hasn't stuck with me. Now I'm in an upper level class and I just feel like everyone else knows so much more, any tips for catching up/fighting the insecurity? Thanks xo

 What you’re feeling is entirely natural. Take heart because you’re not alone, and there are tangible steps you can take to abate your sense of insecurity. That being said, you should also know that being in courses with others who know more than you do is part and parcel of college life. They will have knowledge and skills that you don’t have — but the opposite is also true. Spend some time thinking about where your strengths lie. What has stuck with you throughout your freshman & sophomore years? Has it stuck with you because it is the art, period, or artist that speaks to you the most? In other words, figure out what your art historical interests are and begin (or continue) to focus on this as you make decisions about what classes you take and what you want to research for term papers (and possibly your senior thesis).

Next, think about what your strengths and weaknesses as a student are:

  • Exams: What kinds of exams do you do best, and worst, at? (For common exam types, see page 7 of this PDF.) If you’re terrible at timed essay exams, practice for them by timing yourself as you write about the images from your course.  If comparisons or unknown slide IDs are your downfall, try making a Style Sheet to help yourself better understand how artists’ choices impact their style.  Make sure you have a solid grasp of the readings required for your classes as well, because you may be expected to incorporate what you’ve learned from the readings into your exam answers.

  • Research and Writing: You will likely start to receive more intense research projects during your junior and senior years than you did in your first two years of college. Have your classes required you to do any research papers or projects? If so, how did you do? If you are unhappy with your research skills, see if your university’s library offers training on the specific resources available at your institution. You may also want to sign up for JSTOR’s free, online Research Basics course. If you are unhappy with your writing skills, talk to your professors about how you can improve. If your university has a writing center, don’t hesitate to visit it, especially before and during the writing process.  I strongly recommend that you learn the Chicago Manual of Style (if you haven’t already), as this is the standard used by most (U.S.) art history departments.

  • Reading: When you read the required readings for your classes, do you feel like you’ve absorbed and understood the information & arguments presented to you? If not, this may be part of the reason why you feel behind. If there are sections of readings or entire articles or books that you’re hung up on, try discussing the text with a fellow student, your TA, or professor. If you are having trouble with the readings, think about your reading style. How are you making the information in your readings memorable to you? Highlighting, underlining, margin notes and post-it notes are all good methods of annotating text, but (if you aren’t already), take these basic methods one step further by rewriting tough paragraphs in your own words, outlining authors’ arguments on paper, and keeping a journal of texts that you find interesting and/or would be useful for your own research. If you’re not having any trouble with understanding or keeping up with the readings, great! Keep reading art historical texts. If you aren’t sure what to read, try starting with the history of art history. The two best ways that you can increase your knowledge of art history are to spend lots of time looking at art and reading about it.

  • Memorization: There are three major things art history involves: writing, reading, and memorization. It seems like memorization (things sticking with you) is your major problem, so remedy this by experimenting with study techniques (like Style Sheets), doing compare/contrast exercises, having friends test you with flashcards, looking at lots of art from the areas that you struggle with. Giving specific works of art a backstory may also help to make details such as the artist or date more memorable. One way to do this is to note any interesting visual or historical details about the artwork or artist on the reverse side of flashcards.

Hopefully the above has helped give you confidence in your strengths and figure out where you need improvement.

The best advice I can offer you is to be intentional about your education, and this is much easier to do once you have insight into what kind of student you are and what drives you. During your junior and senior years, find an art historical niche, challenge yourself, study abroad (if you can), go to museums, practice talking about art … tap into what it was that drew you to art history in the first place, and use that as motivation to increase your knowledge of the field, not for the sake of competition with your peers but for the natural self-confidence that following your interests will yield.

 I hope this helps!


Okay, Star Wars Costumes? 

Gold mine of stuff. 

At the request of @roane72 some Luke costume details:

The “kimono”  Luke wears is raw silk (see top picture)

The outfit itself: “The shirts were such a snug fit on Hamill that a hidden zipper was installed under the left sleeve.”

And this….

“When Luke finally confronts Vader and the Emperor, he does so without any layers of protection or mystery - with neither his cloak nor his kimono. Luke’s costume is very dark and actually very fitted. It’s almost tailored. He was becoming a man; he was more and more stoic,” says [Nilo] Rodis-Janero [costume designer Jedi]. “This whole saga is about Luke growing up. George wanted Luke to look as old as absolutely possible,” [Richard] Marquand [director] said at the time.”

– Alinger, Brandon. Star Wars Costumes. pp 130-131; 132 Lucasfilm, Ltd./Chronicle Books 2014. (hardcover book) 

(please excuse my lack of correct MLA/ Chicago Manual of Style - it’s been awhile!)

There is disagreement amongst court scribes regarding the Oxford comma. Some say both are right and none are wrong. I say to you: in lists as in life, ambiguity is a great destroyer, and a weak foundation to build meaning upon. A pause, a breath, betwixt two list items may seem a mere pebble in the desert of history, but its absence can topple empires. The Oxford comma is the way.
—  “The Complete Muad'Dib Style Guide” by the Princess Irulan