What Semicolons Are For

An editor once excised the semicolons from my writing with the marginal note “Death to semicolons.” He changed every one of them to a period. Not every editor is so vehement about this much-maligned mark, but those who are may be provoked by the fact that so many writers don’t know how to use it …

Using Ellipses Properly in Nonfiction

The rules for ellipses in nonfiction differ slightly from those in fiction. In fiction, ellipses signal a hesitation or trailing off of speech. But in nonfiction, they indicate omissions from quoted material. If you’re writing a memoir or other narrative nonfiction, you may use ellipses the way they’re used in fiction. When you use an …

A punctuation primer

Editing for manuscript mechanics involves examining your manuscript closely for minuscule details like these: ☐ Punctuation is properly applied. The most common punctuation errors I see have to do with commas, which is why I created the Comma Cheat Sheet. Few people have trouble with periods. They go at the end of sentences. Period errors …

Em Dashes in Dialogue

Last time, we looked at using ellipses in your dialogue. Up next: em dashes. ☐ Punctuation such as em dashes and ellipses are used correctly. The em dash—it looks like this—is used to indicate a break of thought or speech. It can be used parenthetically, as in the previous sentence, or singly, for example if …

Using Ellipses in Dialogue

Punctuation is hard to master in everyday writing. Fiction adds a layer of complexity because of the different way dialogue is punctuated. As if commas weren’t hard enough to wrangle on their own, dialogue puts a special twist on a couple of marks that don’t otherwise see a lot of use. ☐ Punctuation such as …

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