Sunday, May 31, 2015

Writing Styles

It’s not an easy job being an editor. I am constantly learning something new about writing. There may be hard rules in some aspects but other areas are a little gray. Just when I start feeling confident that I know what I’m doing, something comes along to keep me humble.

I came across the word en dash. What’s an en dash? I looked it up. There’s also an em dash, both of which are different than a hyphen. Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into?

A hyphen is the shortest of the three and the only one with a designated key on a computer keyboard. It’s basically used to link a compound adjective such as well-known man. An en dash is a little longer than a hyphen but not as long as an em dash. The en dash usually goes between ranges of numbers or scores. The em dash is used to take the place of commas, parentheses or colons depending on the effect desired.

The above is just a basic description of the three. However, other issues come into play. Not all computer keyboards and processors are the same. In Microsoft Word, if I put a space on either side of the hyphen, it lengthens it to a dash. That doesn’t work on the MacBook, though, where typing two hyphens together creates a dash. (Of course, I don’t know if in either of those two cases it’s an en or em dash.) Further reading said operating systems may require going into symbols to insert a dash. Gosh, this is getting complicated.

I went to an AP Style website to research further. This site compared that style with the Chicago Manual of Style of writing. Now I’m in even more trouble. I’ve been using the AP Style while writing my book. Should I be following the Chicago Manual of Style there? It’ll be back to the drawing board with my book and looking up different rules.

I woke this morning with the topic again on my mind. There is writer’s preference. I have so much going on right now that to learn another style on top of learning Mac, packing up this house, and finding a new house is too much to take in. 

Most people aren’t even aware there is a difference in writing styles. I never did or, at least, I never thought about it. I read a book for enjoyment and the style doesn’t matter if it  is consistent, well-written, grammar and spelling are correct, and it’s easy to read. My style will be my style and as long as I follow the major rules, that's all that matters.

Of course, this is how I’m thinking today. Next week may be a different story.