» » The Grammar Factor: a few nit-picking hours, spaced or unspaced em rules?

The Grammar Factor: a few nit-picking hours, spaced or unspaced em rules?

posted in: e-newsletter | 0

Mary Morel's monthly writing and grammar e-newsletter

By Mary Morel | September 2015

A few nit-picking hours

People who don’t know me well sometimes tell me they’re nervous when they email me because I’ll pick up on their grammar. They don’t realise that I switch off my nit-picking brain most of the time for two reasons:

  • Finding mistakes all the time would take the joy out of reading.
  • I make plenty of mistakes myself, especially in emails.

I decided to spend a few hours noticing mistakes.

Hyphens with ‘well’
‘An example of a well crafted long-form post.’ (LinkedIn)

We don’t usually use hyphens with adverbs, but ‘well’ is an exception: ‘An example of a well-crafted, long-form post.’ I would put a comma after ‘well-crafted’.

Read more about hyphens.

Practice versus practise
‘Predictably, Simon Tedeschi has spent many hours in the practise room preparing for this latest concert tour… ‘ (Sydney Morning Herald)

Read about practice versus practise.

Suiters versus suitors
A sign outside a local café says: ‘Our waitresses are looking for boyfriends. Potential suiters apply within.’

Maybe they want suitors who wear suits. That’s not likely to happen at that café!

Reader’s question – em rules

A reader asked whether em rules (also known as em dashes) should be spaced or unspaced.

The Australian government style manual recommends using an unspaced em rule.

The risks are real—the government must act. (unspaced em rule)

But what is an em rule? It’s a printer’s term for a dash ( — ) and is about the width of a capital M. Few business writers use an em rule as a dash these days, preferring the Microsoft Word dash (sometimes called the textual dash). The textual dash has spaces on either side.

The risks are real – the government must act. (textual dash)

We create this dash with a space-hyphen-space. If Microsoft Word fails to lengthen the hyphen, you can correct this by inserting a symbol or using shortcut keys (Control + hyphen on the number pad).

Read more about em rules (and en rules too).

Interesting stuff about writing

Save the comma game
Test your comma skills with a game by Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

Word joke
Grammarly.com had a word joke this month: What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? Answer at the bottom.

Six tips for writing the perfect online dating profile
Good writing even applies to online dating. No surprises, really. The tips include:
• Leave out the negative and the snarky
• Check your spelling and grammar

Which age group hates bad grammar the most?
The answer may surprise you.

Quote of the month

‘If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.’
American novelist Anne Tyler

Answer: short