1. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hyphenate This

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AnonyMouse, Sep 25, 2008.

    I write in first person all the time -like a stream of consciousness type of thing- and I sometimes do this thing -like this- where I use hyphens to denote interruptions in thought patterns. I have no idea if this is grammatically correct -I doubt it is- and I'm just wondering how people feel about reading things like this. Is it easy to follow or do you feel it's something I should try to avoid?

    P.S. It doesn't happen nearly as much in my writing as it did in this post. I only did it here for emphasis.
     
  2. Vertz
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    Vertz Member

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    I use dashes, too, but a little differently. I look at them almost like -- and this is kind of an example -- parentheses. I could have put that little comment in parentheses, but I like the look and feel of the dashes a little better. Where you say "I have no idea if this is grammatically correct -I doubt it is-" is an example of what I tend to do. If you don't overdo it, it can work. But I can see, especially from personal experience, how it could get annoying for some readers (like any overused device, really).
     
  3. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    I like to use long dashes a lot, too, for that purpose, but I try to find ways to break the ideas up at other points-- and with other kinds of punctuation. I think we ought to use parentheses, but those look so closed-off that I instinctively skip whatever's inside them.

    Short hyphens, though, would jolt me because I only use them and have only read them used for spelling things out and grouping descriptions.
     
  4. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Long dashes -- with spaces before and after them -- can be used to separate out clauses. The usage ends up being a bit like parentheses (or brackets, if you're British), but not quite as strong of a separation. This technique should be used sparingly, however.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Yes, to set off parenthetical phrases you use the EM dash, or parenthesis, but not the hyphen. To interrupt thoughts you use the Em dash as well, or the ellipsis, depending on how much the thought is interrupted.

    To answer your question using a hyphen is not grammatically correct. You can show stutter though. "Hey do you w-ant to go to the m-m-ovies tonight?"

    You can use hyphens to slow down a word. "I love y-o-u," he said, and died.
     
  6. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's how I've been doing it. I always thought parentheses were intended for "optional" parts of a sentence. Whether you skip what's in the parentheses or not, you still have a complete, coherent sentence.

    I only use ellipses for long pauses or incomplete thoughts. In dialogue, I use them when a voice trails off, becomes illegible, or the listener starts to ignore the speaker. The short hyphen is used when someone (or something) interrupts the speaker.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's for yourself alone, or just for casual writing as in posts and emails, you can use anything you want... i happen to use the ellipsis, as you can see...

    but for work you hope to have published, i'd advise against using hyphens like that... for the record, it is not 'grammatically'/punctuationally correct, in the first place and it will most likely annoy agents/editors you submit your work to...
     
  8. destinationless
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    destinationless Member

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    I hyphenate if I want to stress a word when I write by hand and it gradually developed into my -casual-, typed writing. Casual meaning this forum, chatspeak, etc. I do try my hardest to make sure that my more developed writing that is typed follows proper mechanics. Otherwise, the revision process becomes a nightmare and a half. :p

    You're right, stressing words like -this- is -not- correct punctuation. So many people overuse the hyphen and the parentheses.

    Parentheses ()
    Parentheses are occasionally and sparingly used for extra, nonessential material included in a sentence. For example, dates, sources, or ideas that are subordinate or tangential to the rest of the sentence are set apart in parentheses. Parentheses always appear in pairs."

    Dash --
    Use a dash (represented on a typewriter, a computer with no dashes in the type font, or in a handwritten document by a pair of hyphens with no spaces)...
    -to emphasize a point or to set off an explanatory comment; but don't overuse dashes, or they will lose their impact. Example: To some of you, my proposals may seem radical--even revolutionary. Note that there are no dashes following the first set.
    -for an appositive phrase that already includes commas. Example: The boys--Jim, John, and Jeff--left the party early.

    This information was taken directly from this Purdue University Web site: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_overvw.html

    It covers basic punctuation --a good reference tool.

    -D
     
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  9. 67Kangaroos
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    67Kangaroos Contributing Member

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    AnonyMouse,

    I think the hyphens make everything feel a bit choppy.

    If you're only doing it every once in a while, you might consider rewording with commas or new sentences. It's clear what you're doing (the thoughts changing, overlapping over what you were just thinking), but if you can find a way to show that without hyphens, it will feel smoother.

    Of course, different people come from different schools of thought, so it could be perfectly fine to the next person. It's just my 8% of $0.25.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In a longer piece of work, this interrupted style might give me a seizure. :rolleyes:
     
  11. Sephie913
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    Sephie913 Member

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    I personally write according to my own style, more than anything. I follow along with most rules, but if grammatic correctness gets in the way of atmosphere or effect, I usually skimp on correctness.

    For instance, I use hyphens in much the same way you do. I use them to interrupt a thought, as long as I return to the original thought later, or to break at the end of a sentence, if the last part can't be made into a new sentence. But that's just me.
     
  12. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    My point exaclty.

    I'm not just making this up; I've seen it done in published works as well. I wouldn't do it in an academic essay or a thesis, but I don't think it's out of place in fiction writing.

    As for the comments about hyphens giving people seizures or making things feel choppy.... I suppose everyone has a certain punctuation mark that irks their nerves. I'm not a fan of exclamation marks. My sister (who reviews a lot of my writing) hates semicolons. To each his own, I suppose.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you seem to be confusing em dashes with hyphens... a single hyphen is ONLY used to link words and turn them into a hyphenated word or phrase, as with 'scaredy-cat' or 'soon-to-be-wed' and such...

    while double hyphens are used to show where you want an em dash to be placed in your ms, they're only 'standing in for' the em dash and not functioning as hyphens...

    but a single hyphen cannot correctly be used instead of the em dash or ellipsis, which are what one uses to end an interrupted thought, or an open-ended sentence... you also seem to need to learn the difference between an ellipsis and an em dash and when/where each is appropriate...

    using the wrong punctuation mark might not get your ms tossed, but it can sure make you look like an amateur to agents and editors and thus diminish your chances of being taken seriously as a writer...
     
  14. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    So is the em dash the longer of the two? That's what I've been using in my writing, though I keep calling it a "hyphen." I had no idea they were two separate things. Thanks for the clarification.

    EDIT: I just re-read every post in this thread and everyone else was saying what you just said. I must be slow in the head. :(
     

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