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Subject:Using M-dash and N-dash? From:Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca> To:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com, dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com Date:Tue, 10 Feb 2004 18:08:54 -0500
Missed the start of this side topic, but it appears that someone
proposed asking people "whether they *use* em dashes in their writing
and whether they care what's written in the Chicago Manual of Style
(CMoS)" as if that question were really important.
Puh-lease. This is logic? Should we abandon the use of dictionaries
because so few people seem to use them, and abandon punctuation because
so many people don't understand how to use it well? Maybe we should
abandon subject-verb accord too; by the evidence from my freelance
editing work, not too many people know how to use that tool either. And
maybe we should just organize our thoughts on the page in whatever
order they drift into our enlightened brains, since good organization
isn't all that common either. Yeah, that's a real good idea.
The reason these guides and others exist is because some of us
understand their importance and use them to impose a measure of
consistency. Others benefit from our use of these guides. The reason em
and en dashes exist--and have done so for a good many years (centuries,
probably)--is because they continue to serve a useful purpose. Some of
us still know how to use them and many more of us understand their
Yes, the lowest common denominator keeps on sinking, but that doesn't
mean we should pander to the lowest common denominator. Write well,
using all the tools at your disposal, for the benefit of those who can
appreciate good writing. Write clearly so that those who can't
appreciate what we're doing can still benefit from our writing.
Skillful use of language is worth defending, and worth promoting.
Dave Brown rejoined: <<What I wrote was that, without conscious effort,
most people correctly interpret the intended meaning of text that
includes appropriately used em dashes. The point is that a professional
communicator needs to understand and employ the tools and rules of
And _that's_ well said. Amen.
--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)