small secret truths

I reach into the HTML every time I use an “em-dash” — the long ones that connect phrases, like I’m using here — so that I can properly deploy that punctuation. If I can’t get to the HTML from the tool I’m using, I grit my teeth… and later go back and re-em-dash the double-hyphens I use in their wake. Double-hyphens are for people using typewriters. Which I am not.


I have a friend who uses hyphens to build variable-length em-dashes in his blog-posts. This makes me cringe, no surprise, particularly since I don’t think the length of his em-dashes has any relation to the force of his emotion or the strength of the connection between his clauses, or… or, really, any of the sorts of logic a projective poet would use with punctuation. I would forgive him if there was an intent.


Emily Dickinson was a huge fan of the em-dash. She had great difficulty getting editors to respect her usage, particularly since she preferred to publish posthumously. It looks like that’s finally been straightened out, however.


Typography-nerd note: they’re called em-dashes because, in the font used, the dash travels as long as a lower-case letter “m”. There are en-dashes ( – ), and they’re for number phrases. And a phone number is not a number-phrase; it is a hyphenated number. You’re welcome.

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