Do you use dots and dashes when writing? Of course you do.We all use them to indicate pauses or an interruption. But do you know how to use them? Do you know the difference between three dots and an ellipse? What’s the difference? How about two dashes and an em-dash? Do you also know if you don’t know it could mean the difference between a contract and a rejection letter?
As novelists who expect to be published and have their work displayed publically for readers to read and love, we must know the difference. When using FB, Twitter or when jotting out a text message, the difference is not important. When writing our WIP, knowing the difference is imperative.
As a reader, I dislike dots and dashes and, as a publisher, I know why.
Reason #1: Most writers use em-dashes incorrectly. Example: –These are two dashes and not an em-dash. This is an em-dash – See, there’s no spaces between the two dashes. As I publisher, if you use double dashes all the time, which most beginners do, they all have to be removed and correcting them is difficult—and they must be corrected before publication. Consequently, it is sometimes much easier to just reject the work.
Reason #2: Most writers use ellipses incorrectly. These…are three dots. This . . . is an ellipse. Also, one must know that an ellipse does not have a space after the last dot, like . . .” or before the quote marks like this “. . . in a dialogue passage.
Most writers wrongly use tons of ellipses, so I dislike ellipses for the same reason I dislike dashes. In both cases they indicate a writer who hasn’t taken the time to learn to become a novelist.
Lastly, em-dashes and ellipses should be USED SPARINGLY or their impact is lost on your reader. Just as over-spicing a dish can ruin it, too many ellipses and em-dashes can ruin a nice story. When in doubt, always use your writing skill instead of a crutch.