Em Dashes, and En Dashes and Hyphens – Oh My!

Weather Report: Well in to the 90s. Humidity, the same. Such a change from last Wednesday when the temperature was 48 degrees. I can’t control the weather, so I live with crazy Central PA changes. We don’t have lions, and tigers, and bears this week, but we do have en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens. They can be just dangerous and frightening. Let’s make the trip together.


  • Indicates breaks within words that wrap at the end of a line
  • Connects compounded words like “mass-produced”
  • Connects grouped numbers, like a phone number 555-860-5086
  • The hyphen does not indicate a range of numbers.

En dash

  • Joins numbers in a range, such as “1993–99” or “1200–1400 B.C.” or “pages 32–37” or open-ended ranges, like “1934–”
  • Joins words that describe a range, like “July–October 2010”

Em dash

  • Supposedly works better than commas to set apart a unique idea from the main clause of a sentence. I’m not sure.
  • Shows when dialogue has been interrupted:

The em dash? I never use it, I’m improper. I only use the en dash. I always skip a space between the last word and the en dash and skip a space before the next word – if you know what I mean. No, that’s not the way it is supposed to be done, but then again, who cares? See you next week!



Thinking About Foreshadowing

Let’s look at foreshadowing this week. Foreshadowing is when an author gives a warning of a future event. The purpose is to build suspense, and there are some things to consider in using it properly. You will need to decide how it fits your story best.

Use it subtly. Foreshadowing may be something in the fabric of your writing that is noticeable but not glaring. The reader must notice it. Otherwise, it has no purpose. At the end of the novel, do you want your reader to look back and think, “Oohhhhh! I get it now!” Well, then be subtle.

Use it boldly. Without dwelling on it, make your point obvious. Let the reader know there is a reason for it and build enough curiosity to keep your audience turning pages. But please – don’t overdo it.

Make it relevant. Not every plot-point needs foreshadowing. Too much foreshadowing can cause your writing to appear silly, or worse yet, melodramatic. Use it sparingly, and make sure there is the payoff, that point where the foreshadowing is recognized.

Done well, foreshadowing will excite your reader. It will make him want to know how the pieces connect. It will prepare her for when the foreshadowing pays off.

Add it later. So you finished your rough draft and you’re revising. You can always add a touch of foreshadow after the fact. You can always remove foreshadowing, too. Just remember, if it serves no purpose, ditch it, and be sure not to overdo it.

Next Wednesday will be here before we know it. See you then!!!


With Saddened Heart

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die,, but after this the judgment: ” – Hebrews 9:27

You may have noticed there was no update this past Wednesday. I apologize for getting to it late, but my wife’s brother passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning. An Air Force veteran of 30+ years, in what I would call perfect health, slipped away as a vapor into eternity. We will never see him again. There will be no more phone calls. No more impromptu visits.

It is appointed unto men once to die. My short challenge to you this week is to make every minute count. One day we will all follow him to the grave – to return to the dust from which we were taken; to stand before our Creator; to give an account of the lives we lived on earth. God will not be concerned with our works at that time. His only question will be, “Have you followed my Son, Jesus Christ?”

It’s been a long couple of days, so I’ll not preach (although I could). I will simply ask you, have you found peace in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Every single human being will die at some time. You don’t know when. Are you ready? Every single human being will stand before the God of the Universe. Are you ready? If I can be of help in any way, please reach back. I’m reaching out to you concerning the most important decision you will ever make.

We’ll do our best to get back to writing next week. Until then . . .


The Hardest Thing About Writing; Self-Editing

Welcome to another manic Wednesday! It’s great to have you with us on this humid Pennsylvania morning. Hopefully, one of those Central Pennsylvania thunder storms will roll in soon and cool things off.

One of the hardest things for me to do is to edit my writing. I can catch mistakes in other’s pieces, but I miss too much when I’m checking my own – not sure why. Jerry Jenkins, notable Christian author, lists several facts to be considered when checking your own story. Where can you improve?

Have you:
Maintained a single Point of View per scene.

Avoided clichés—not just words and phrases, but
also situations.

Resisted the urge to explain, showing rather than
telling. For example, not, “It’s cold,” which is
merely flat, telling narrative, but rather, “She
shivered,” which is descriptive language, showing
a character in action, letting the reader experience
the story and deduce what is going on without
being told.

Primarily used said to attribute dialogue, rather than
any other option.

Included specifics to add the ring of truth.

Avoided similar character names or even the same
first initials to keep characters distinct. o Avoided
specialized punctuation, typestyles, font sizes, ALL
CAPS, italics, bold facing, etc.

I have to admit, I never thought about some of these. Maybe you haven’t either. Maybe it’s time. Anyway, ponder this until we meet again. See you next week!


How Many Times Have You Heard, Show Don’t Tell?

Happy late Memorial Day to everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful time of relaxation with family and friends – or just a time to kick back and lessen the pressure and stress that so easily creeps up on us. Now, are you ready to dig in for the rest of the summer?

Let’s revisit the first rule of writing. Show, don’t tell. We know what we’re supposed to do, but do we – at least with consistency? Let me give you five ways you might be telling when you could be showing.

  1. Giving too much information at one time may cause telling, especially relating to backstory. Rather than dump the whole thing on us at one time. Spread the information throughout the story. Try to not use more than three sentences at a time. Dialogue can be effective in revealing information pertinent to your piece.
  2. Don’t get into the habit of always using words to express your character. Sometimes, things are better off left unsaid. Let the action make the statement.
  3. Writing is about sharing your character intimately with your reader. There needs to be an emotional connection. When emotion is lacking, it may be because you’re telling too much. Back off and show it. A beta reader might be helpful. It’s hard for us, as authors, to know how our material affects an outsider. We’re too close to the story to see straight at times.
  4. Could it be your scenes are too short? If every scene feels like an introduction or summary, then you may have a telling problem. Telling takes fewer words, and it leaves scenes feeling like they end before they even begin. It’s like telling a friend the plot of a scary movie versus making them see it themselves. You can tell a story in a minute, but the movie takes at least an hour.
  5. A story is like a puzzle. It comprises various pieces the reader needs to put together. If there are no puzzle pieces for the reader to apply, you’ve probably told too much. Don’t spoon-feed your readers. They want to do the work, investigate for themselves, and discover the secrets within. Showing allows them to do this. Telling takes the work – and the fun out of it. No doubt you’ll lose your reader.

Well, there you have it! Stay safe and healthy until next time.