Don’t Throw Money Away — Proofread

Today’s post is a continuation on the topic of proofreading.

This original photo shows a large banner that takes up this local business’s entire storefront window. Do you see what’s wrong? The word “stationary” means “not moving.” The correct word is “stationery.”

banner-1
Photo by Dawn Heinbach

As far as “big deals” go, some people may think this is not one of them. But consider: how much do these banners cost? Some can be purchased for less than $100; some that are more durable for outdoor use with a longer lifespan can cost a few thousand dollars. If you are going to spend a significant amount of money buying a banner, also spend time — a minute or two is all it takes — to proofread every word on the banner for spelling. If there’s punctuation on the banner, check that, too. Even if you’re not plunking down a huge chunk of cash, can you afford to waste money on something you won’t be able to use?

Banners often serve multiple purposes, and this is how a business gets their money’s worth from the cost. Besides being hung in the business location, banners are also taken to trade events and hung at the business’s booth or display. A banner that contains an error cannot be used for that purpose.

If you read the banner, you’ll notice that one of the products this business offers is vinyl banners. If you are not good at spelling and you submit your banner for them to print, do you trust that they are going to proofread it for errors? Do you trust a business to do a good job on your printed materials if their own sign contains a spelling or wrong word error?

There are some consumers who won’t care about a misspelling on a sign, but remember that spelling is also about you. Why present your business in a less-than-stellar way? When putting a message out there — whether it be on a banner, a print ad, menu, social media, or blog post — always represent your business in the most professional way possible. That includes correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Not doing so lessens your credibility and potentially, your income.

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Hyphens and Dashes

Dashes are part of a professional writer’s toolbox. They are used to create pauses and indicate strength of words. If you want to up your blogging or content game, get comfortable knowing when to correctly use them.

Hyphen

The hyphen, the shortest dash, is probably the most misused. People insert it in place of longer dashes or type two hyphens rather than a long dash. Today, say “no more” to incorrectly used hyphens! You want to look like you know what you’re doing, right?

A hyphen’s most common use is for compound adjectives: when two words are combined to create a single adjective:

  • four-foot table
  • 10-page report
  • 3-year-old child

A hyphen should never be used in place of an en or em dash. It doesn’t read well. I see this a lot in online writing. A hyphen where an em dash should be always trips me up. Don’t make your reader go back and reread a line!

En Dash

An en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen. It’s used to indicate space between times and dates, and is read as “to” or “through”:

  • 4 – 6 p.m. (4 to 6 p.m.)
  • 2000 – 2016 (2000 to 2016)
  • Monday – Thursday (Monday through Thursday)

AP Style requires a space before and after the en dash.

Emily Dickinson was fond of placing em dashes at the end of a line, and her work became easily recognizable because of this.

Em Dash

The em dash is one of my favorite punctuation marks. It’s a long dash that can be used to break up a sentence — especially when what follows the em dash is closely related to what’s before it. The em dash is read as a strong pause, similar to a period. There are several ways to use an em dash.

In place of commas

If you want to make a nonrestrictive clause stand out, use em dashes rather than commas, like this:

  • Mary, who was completely unprepared, saved our haphazard presentation with some skillful ad-libbing and landed the new client.
  • Mary — who was completely unprepared — saved our haphazard presentation with some skillful ad-libbing and landed the new client.

The em dashes give more weight to the words between them. They indicate that it’s important for you to know that Mary was unprepared.

In place of parentheses
  • Bob adopted his dog (a Golden Doodle) from a local animal shelter.
  • Bob adopted his dog — a Golden Doodle — from a local animal shelter.

As with replacing commas, the em dashes here indicate importance to the breed of dog.

In place of a colon

Similarly, a colon can be replaced with an em dash when emphasis is needed.

  • Snow, sleet, freezing rain: this is the forecast for the weekend.
  • Snow, sleet, freezing rain — this is the forecast for the weekend.
In quotes

Lastly, em dashes are inserted between a quote and its speaker.

  • “To be or not to be, that is the question.” — Hamlet

Compare this:

  • “To be or not to be, that is the question.” – – Hamlet

If you’re still not convinced what the big deal is about using hyphens, ask yourself which one of the above looks more professional? Set yourself apart from what the majority of others are doing incorrectly.

Formatting

The proper way to use insert em dashes, according to AP Style, are with a space before and after. Academic style guides such as MLA and APA require no spaces. Personally, I like the way the em dash looks with the spaces. I think it’s more readable.

How to create em dashes on your computer keyboard

There are several ways to do this. Microsoft Word automatically creates en and em dashes when you make the following keystrokes:

En dash:

Word → space → two hyphens → space → next word.

When you hit the space bar after the next word, an en dash is created.

 

Em dash:

Word → two hyphens → word.

When you hit the space bar after the next word, an em dash is created. If you are using AP Style, you can then go back and insert spaces before and after the dash.

Numeric Keys:

En dash = Alt + 0150

Em dash = Alt + 0151

Hold the Alt key down and enter the numeric keys. When you release the Alt key, the dashes are formed.

Character Map

character-map

The character map, found in the Windows 10 start menu under “Windows Accessories,” can be used to copy and paste en and em dashes. Once the character map is open, choose the font you are using. Then, scroll through that font until you find the en or em dash. You then select and copy the character and you can paste it into your document or text. This is the most time-consuming method, but some laptop keyboards do not allow the creation of these dashes with the Alt and numeric keys. So if you’re not using MS Word or a desktop computer, you may have to use the character map to insert them.

em-dash

 

 

 

 

 

Phone

Luckily, our mobile devices provide an easy way to insert en and em dashes. I discussed this in my previous post.

 

 

 

 

Pro Writing Tools — On Your Phone?

Did you know you can make an em dash and en dash on your phone’s keyboard? As a professional writer, I was really excited about this feature when I discovered it. But anyone can — and should — use this feature when posting to professional social media or your business blog from your phone.

  • Go to your phone’s keyboard and choose the numbers display.
  • Find the hyphen. Now, press and hold the button.
  • A menu pops up that shows the em (long) dash on the left, underscore in the middle, and en (medium) dash on the right. (There’s also a tiny bullet dot on the far right.)
  • Just slide your finger to the one you want to insert, and let go.

 

emdashphone

I know, right? How cool is that?

Why should you use an em or en dash rather than just a regular old hyphen? There are several important reasons, which I’ll discuss in my next post!

Workshops Offer Instruction on Using Social Media for Business

twitter-117595_1280On Saturday, I attended “Get Social,” a social media workshop presented by fleur de lisa solutions. The topic for this particular workshop was Twitter. Now, I have three Twitter accounts for different purposes, so I am familiar with the platform — but 95 percent of what I learned was information I hadn’t known before. I was amazed by all the components of Twitter, most of which remain unknown by general users.

Twitter is a social media platform, but it is quite different from Facebook in many ways. Did you know that there are apps designed specifically to improve your Twitter capabilities? Did you know that Twitter’s analytics — its demographic information about your followers — is more in-depth than Facebook’s? Well, neither did I. This information alone was worth the cost of attendance.

I know that small business owners often struggle with finding the time and maybe even the funds to attend workshops like those offered by fleur de lisa solutions, but believe me when I say that it is worth every effort to learn about social media marketing for your business. Digital marketing has specific advantages that print advertising does not: it’s cheaper (and even free!) and it has a much greater reach — if you are utilizing social media to its fullest capabilities.

Owners of larger businesses should consider sending an employee in their Communications or Public Relations department to attend these workshops. The knowledge they bring back to your company can be incorporated into your current marketing and customer relations strategies, and will benefit your business a thousand times over.

These workshops are currently held on the third Saturday of every month at Cloud 9 Cafe, Wyomissing, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Contact Lisa Balthaser at fleur de lisa solutions for more info.

The next workshop is June 18th, and I sincerely hope to see you there.