Hyphens and the like

Like most other writers, I rely on the keyboard to tell me what I am supposed to type. If it is not there, I don’t use it. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But there are instances where the “rules” of punctuation are not clear and it behooves us, as writers, to do a little digging in order to better understand those rules before we release out work.

I realize that most readers would not know the difference in uses between
and en dash and an em dash. And most memereaders would not be able to distinguish the difference between and en dash and a hyphen. And many readers would never know the rules about when to use each of them in the course of writing. However, we as writers, are a little more discerning. We certainly want to make sure that our book “baby” is perfect before sending it out into the big, bad world.


Connects two things that are related. Example: toll-free call

En Dashes:

It is a little wider than the hyphen and is primarily used to indicate a range. Example: Psalms 119:1–3, 1921–1935, Pages 14–17.

Em Dashes:

There are several uses for the em dash and they are the width of the capital M.

They are used to set off a series of items within a sentence that is already using a comma.

Ex.: My children—Tom, James and Claire—all get along, most of the time.

They are used to express a break in thought.

Ex.: I want—I need—to take a vacation to relax.

They are used to  introduce a summarizing thought.

Ex.: To get my book written—that was my objective.

They are used to give emphasis to elements within a sentence.

Ex.: Key ingredients—baking soda, vanilla, and salt—were left out of the recipe, causing it to be a flop.

They are used to fill in for missing letters.

Ex.: The famous Mr. K—y was not present for the gala.

They are even used to indicate a missing word.

Ex.: Dear Diary, I ran into — at the grocery store today and I was afraid he would recognize me so I ran to the bathroom.


So, some of you might be wondering, “That is all well and good, but how do I get them ‘written?'” Well, there are some ways to do it in Word, but I have found that the easiest way, for me, is to use the Alt key.

En dash: Alt + 0150

Em dash: Alt + 0151

You must use the keypad and not the numbers above the letters.

I hope this basic tutorial has helped just a little. I have learned so much in my short time taking the class and I intend to share as much as I can with you in the coming weeks and months.

Stay tuned for my next installment where I plan on discussing another editing tip/trick.

Keep on writing!





The Great Editor

This past week I started an online class in editing. My desire and call is to become a freelance editor, but the fact that I do not have the slightest bit of education in this area is more than a little daunting. So, when the Lord showed me this class, I knew I needed to take it in order to gain the knowledge I needed in order to be prepared for this new venture.

I am a bit philosophical and I overthink so many things in my life. Recently I have been re-examining the choices I have made up until this point. How is the Lord using each choice, each circumstance, each relationship, to bring me to this very moment in time? How has He opened my eyes to this particular opportunity and said “no” to the others that I was so sure He had called me to? These things cause me to scratch my head.

Then I began to think of the whole idea of editing. An editor takes something created by another person or himself/herself and “tweaks” it here and there in order to make it better. Maybe it will never be perfect, but that is what I want to examine today.

Life. The Lord created me and lovingly formed me before the foundation of the world. He knew my beginning and my end and He knew each experience and characteristic of my life that needed to be present in order for me to become everything that He designed me to be. Sometimes He even allowed others to be used in this process.

OK. This might be too general. Let me show you a few specifics.

As a child and teenager, I read furiously. I love words – well, the written word, anyway. This is a trait the Lord instilled in me as a child. But it could have been squelched, right? Well it wasn’t. Mom and Dad always made sure I had books or access to a library. Thought: The Lord “added” my parents to my life to bring opportunities. Is this not something an editor would do?

As an adult I had children and read to them constantly. I homeschooled them and taught them how to read. I would grade their papers and help them understand grammar and taught them new vocabulary words. The Lord allowed my children to add to my life’s tapestry and bring me to this place. Is that not something an editor does? Add a phrase or word that would help give clarity?

I started writing stories, but for some reason they were never finished. I just couldn’t muster the creative juices to get them done. I would get frustrated and cry out to the Lord asking, “Why did You give me this “gift” that everyone says I have and not let me use it?” I think the Lord “tweaked” this and said something like, “How about looking at the structure here? Why don’t you do a little more research on this before We are finished writing your story?” Isn’t that the job of an editor? To point out areas that are just a bit weak and need adjusting?

Occasionally there are those who somehow harm me or will eventually harm me. I cling to those friendships, hoping that somehow the Lord will intervene and change the situation. But my omniscient Lord either moves them, or me, along. Is He not the great Editor Who deletes certain things because they detract from the story?

And oftentimes, He brings others into your life to point out small mistakes that need adjusting before we can continue. Just like an editor would do in pointing out spelling errors.

This may all sound a little simplistic, but sometimes I need simplicity to bring me back to my roots – my base. You see, editing is difficult. I am BY NO MEANS comparing myself to the Lord, but merely drawing some parallels. You see, it is hard being on either end, isn’t it? For those of you who are writers, you spend so much time crafting your beautiful story. And to have someone come along and “tweak” it might cause you a little pain. Right? And for those of you who are not writers, it sometimes hurts when others come along and point out little things in your life that need to be changed. They might even be sins. But it is never fun when someone sees our mistakes, is it?

Here is the lesson for today – something that I learned in my second lesson for my online class. The job of the editor is not to change the work. It is the author’s work. The editor is merely there to show the author a few changes that could be made in order to make the story read better. It is up to the author to accept or decline those suggestions.

So when we allow ourselves to really be more objective, we will recognize that the Lord is the Author of our lives. He is also the Divine Editor, isn’t He? He merely makes suggestions and gives us opportunities to change to show off the work of the Author. We have the choice to accept or decline His direction.  But do we not ultimately WANT to make sure His creation is everything that He created it to be?

Fitting In

Do you have a problem fitting in? Have you ever been uncomfortable  in your own skin? Do you ever wonder if you were born at the wrong time?  Or have you ever done something for so long because others told you that you were good at it, but you just didn’t feel fulfilled?Does it irritate you that you just don’t “get” what the Lord might be doing in your life? I liken these situations to the visual concept of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

My thoughts today have been niggling in my brain for a while, trying to come together in words that are understandable. You know how it gets sometimes when your thoughts are all jumbled in your brain and you just can’t seem to find the right words?

Well, for a while now I have been struggling. Struggling inwardly and outwardly. You see, I am the one who is bringing the struggle upon myself because I have been trying to fit in.

I have been thinking for the longest time that I was “meant to be” a novelist. I enjoy writing and I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t always faithful in keeping up with it at times, but I always returned to that smooth surface and faithful ink pen. I had started writing several stories (uh, maybe 20 plus?) but they each are stacked in a cupboard above my desk, unfinished. Why? Because I get to a point where I just get so frustrated trying to make things up. It stresses me out to the point where I quit in tears. It is upsetting to think that the very thing I feel “called” to is causing me so much angst. It shouldn’t be that way, should it?

Recently I picked up a book that spoke of finding your calling. It was at that same time that I mentioned to my mother that I was getting frustrated with the actual writing process and was too much of a perfectionist. That I spent more time fixing my mistakes than actually writing. (My mom is one of my biggest cheerleaders and lovingly supports me in my ventures.) She told me she would pray about the situation. THEN, not even a day later, I was chatting with a dear friend, expressing to her my frustrations as well. After putting me through a series of 20-questions, she exclaimed, “You are an editor! This is your calling!”

That evening I cried again, but this time, tears of peace flooded my eyes. I was so relieved to know that I didn’t have to try and fit this square peg of “me” into the round hole I had cut for myself years ago.

I have spent so long trying to fit in to an image that I convinced myself it should look like. It became liberating to know that the Lord was calling me. It was freeing to know that all of the gifts and traits I had been blessed with were being used by God to make something unique and  completely different. Something I alone could accomplish.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

I have been on a cloud for more than two weeks now because I am seeing how the Lord has been working, slowly molding me into a creation to be used for a specific purpose. I didn’t see it before because I was so busy focusing on what I “thought” the Lord wanted for me.

You see, I am not the creative person that so many in my past and present have made me out to be. I am not as right-brained, filled with overwhelming desire to make something. I had believed, incorrectly, that the Lord made everyone with that ability, but that just isn’t true. I can be different. I can be unique. I can express my perfectionism and alpha-female personality in a way that is glorifying to the Lord. I just need to keep my eyes on HIM and He will fit all those puzzle pieces together and make perfect sense.

In the meantime, I have registered for an online class to sharpen my skills. I have put away my “novel” idea of writing fiction. I have been spending more time in prayer and acknowledging the Lord’s sovereignty in this area of my life. I have had my eyes opened to others who also are square pegs trying to find their niche. And most importantly, I have been at peace, for the most part, with the knowledge that all of the previous decades of my life were not really in vain. They were merely getting me to the point where the Lord could use it ALL for His glory.