Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Punctuation confrontation

No comment: The Case—Please Hear Me Out—Against the Em Dash


Shalanna said...

So I'm not supposed to comment? *grin*

I would venture to say, though, that the author of the Slate piece has used em-dashes wherever she has a clause that needs to be separated from the sentence. She could have delimited any clause with commas or put it in parentheses (she uses parentheticals in several places, so she's apparently not making the argument that people don't understand parentheticals). Then her sentences would have varied (and there wouldn't have been an article.) She's trying to make a point here, but I'm not sure whether the point is that modern writers rely on dashes instead of writing sentences of varying types, or that people really don't have good reading comprehension and thus can't comprehend the meaning of punctuation marks. I won't insert any smileys into this comment because someone told me earlier today that smileys or "*grin*" or any such disclaimers to indicate a whimsical tone are "annoying as ****," but perhaps readers will understand that my comment is made in the same spirit as the original Slate article.

Edittorrent said...

I would comment, except I couldn't get past the first paragraph of that article. Geez, talk about an annoying prose style.


Angela said...

It did hurt my head to read it, but I was intrigued by her comments regarding Emily Dickinson.

I wonder if her remarks relating the increase in the use of em dashes to women writers means there are more women writers than men, and if they are saying, as a result, the quality of writing has lessened.

Stevie Carroll said...

I'm rather fond of em-dashes, especially for dialogue and deep third person where I'm essentially indicating an interruption to the flow of thoughts. Other punctuation marks don't give the same impression in my opinion.

Jennifer said...

I just think Claire Messud used the em dash so brilliantly in The Emperor's Children. Just flipping to a random page, I found seven.

green_knight said...

I'm currently proofing a book that does not use all _that_ many em-dashes - but once you pay attention to them, there are too many. If I were copyediting, I'd probably eliminate half of them.

But just because people misuse it - and this article is a prime example - does not mean they're without merit.