Monthly Archives: May 2011

Squirming…

Okay, guilty.  Very, very guilty.

The Case—Please Hear Me Out—Against the Em Dash

Modern prose doesn’t need any more interruptions—seriously.

Okay, this makes me squirm big time. I didn’t even know what the “em dash” was, but I know I use it the way I use the parmesan shaker at an Italian restaurant with really good bread and aromatic fruity olive oil at the table–generously and with abandon. (I’m occasionally redundant as well.) My use of parentheses and ellipsis…well, you can see for yourself.

Fact is, though, on a blog I like to write the way I think.  And I think in em dashes and ellipses. With a lot of parentheticals. It’s my damn blog, and I’ll write any damn way I like.

The other fact is that when I’m writing something “real”–an article or book or what-have-you–I do a first draft that’s as full of em dashes and the rest as anything else I write (dammit, now I’m all self-conscious about using it, even in my stream of consciousness!), and then I purge thickly. (I also purge of parenthetical comments and adverbs like “thickly.” And excessive quotation marks, another annoying habit.) Even in emails, I am conscious of the receiver and my relationship with him or her, and “voice” the note accordingly after the first spewing of mental thoughts onto the screen.

Yes, I guess em dashes are inefficient. But sometimes efficiency is a pain in the butt. I will keep my em dashes, thank you very much.

(Hmm…I’m even looking at this email, and wondering if there’s a semiotic study or something in this whole issue…when I’m being solid and emphatic, I use brief, even incomplete sentences with a lot of periods.  When I’m musing or rambling, out come the em dashes and ellipses…interesting.)