Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Great Green Editing Pen, Em Dashes, Ellipses & the Belgium Genocide

I'm still working away with the Great Green Editing Pen at the moment. 
A green pen seems a little less ruthless than a red pen. It doesn't look quite so harsh on the page. I have a massive pile of manuscript pages in front of me,(mostly out of sync since my eldest savage child threw them about the room in a fit of pique) and I'm going through them again and then again. And oh yeah, again. I'm finding myself looking up things like em dashes and ellipses and their correct spacing. And sending emails to my parents about them. 
I'm sure I wasn't taught the correct ellipse spacing at school. When reading other people's novels now, I find myself stopping and staring at all the ellipses and em dashes to work out what the editors have decided upon. Unfortunately, I haven't come across any great conformity. I'm considering just deciding on a style and sticking with it. Probably one from an Australian Style Guide, as I am, after all, an Aussie. Or the one my Mum emailed me. Let's be honest, that is the most likely option.) 
And at the grand age of thirty-five I've just discovered there's a difference between an en dash and an em dash. Or in fact, that that's what they're called. Picture me blushing. 
I feel almost as embarrased as I did by my recent discovery of the nineteenth century genocide in the Congo that the Belgium King Leopold supervised. How could I not know about the slaughter of so many people? Or about Em and En dashes? Sometimes it seems the older I get the more ignorant I realise myself to be. 
It is lowering. 
And then of course, while I'm marking out all the em and en dashes and ellipses I need to standardise ... I begin thinking ... there really are rather a lot of these. Maybe I need to cut some. 
Maybe -- just maybe -- I overuse them. 
My Papa, whose PhD was on James Connolly, an Irish Socialist executed after the Easter Rising in 1916, is fond of telling me about another Irish rebel, (Peadar O'Donell) whose writing was littered with semi-colons. When brought up on charges, and trying to deny that seditious writing was his own, his accusers said "Peadar, anything full of treason and semi-colons was written by you." 
I don't think I overuse my favoured punctuations to quite such an extent. But I do find myself worrying about it. However, I've still another dozen chapters to edit. I'm sure I'll find some other obscure(ish) point to obsess about soon. (Maybe italics? Or parentheses? Oh the options!)


  1. interestingly, there was one chapter where our editor said we had noticeably fewer em-dashes, and recommended that we *add more* so it would feel consistent. I had been so sure they'd be asking us to edit them out, but no...so apparently they're not all bad. :-) (I rely on them heavily--and on ellipses, and parenthetical remarks...LOL)

    1. Giggle! O that's good to hear! I'm glad that not everyone is averse to them - I'm very fond of them! I'm eagerly awaiting your books arrival - I ordered it ages ago but it said it wouldn't arrive till late November... I keep hoping it will come early but so far no luck!