Reading Aloud, Em dashes, and Pitching Editors

Thursday Writing Tips

Hi, inspired writers!

It’s actually Friday here in New Zealand, so here are some writing tips from a day in the future!

I’ve been thinking a bit about em dashes this week. Yes, I think about punctuation.

In fact, I love thinking about punctuation. It’s one of my weaknesses as a writer so I try my best to learn as much as I can about it.

Unlike many of you, I wasn’t taught about punctuation, verbs, clauses etc., at school. The New Zealand Education Board did this odd thing when I was a child called “Tomorrow’s Schools” where they decided it was a good idea to throw out all traditional teaching of grammar and just let us be creative.

I suppose that freedom may have lead to me becoming a writer—I certainly never run out of creativity—but I’m not sure it did us many favours in terms of formal writing.

There are rules to writing, as much as we hate to admit it. Punctuation though—even with it’s many rules—is actually a tool for creativity!

Which brings me to the em dash—one of my favourite punctuation marks.

What is an em dash?

It’s an amazingly flexible tool that you can use for almost anything! It can section off an idea like parentheses do (but in a less subtle way) or give a powerful punch to your final thoughts. Em dashes emphasise and draw attention to your content.

I used it above in both ways.

Em dashes are made by hitting the hyphen key twice. Writers often confuse em dashes with hyphens. I cringe when I see this. Hyphens are used to hyphenate words: eye-opener, state-of-the-art.

This is correct:

When she read the book—all 750 pages of it—she found at least 100 places where the author had used em dashes.

This is not:

When she read the book-all 750 pages of it-she found at least 100 places where the author had incorrectly used a hyphen.

Don’t overuse the em dash, or it will look a bit odd, but definitely have fun with it! It’s a much friendlier punctuation mark than a colon and has more impact than parentheses.

Bonus tips

I have two articles for you today that you might find helpful. The first is about the importance of reading your work aloud, what to listen for, and what you gain from it.

How Reading Your Work Aloud Improves Your Writing (Medium members)

How Reading Your Work Aloud Improves Your Writing (non members)

The second one is about how to pitch to editors. I’ve put this article together with one of my magazine editors, Kineta Booker. It has a template that we hope will be super easy for you to use and help get some of your work out there into magazines and websites that pay!

How to Pitch Your Article to an Editor (Medium members)

How to Pitch Your Article to an Editor (non members)

Until next time

Kelly