How to Use Dashes

A big part of my job lately has been copy editing. It’s not exciting but it is important. Most of the time it’s just correcting little things like extra spaces (there’s only ONE space after a period!), writing out acronyms or fixing capitalization. One of the most common mistakes I come across is the misuse of dashes. Below I’m going to cover the most common dashes and how to properly use them in your writing. Once you get these down, someday a graphic designer will thank you for your well-typed copy.

When most people think of a dash, they probably think of a hyphen (-). Technically it’s not a dash but it is closely related. Hyphens are used in certain compound words like mother-in-law. Most people don’t have issues with using hyphens.

En dashes (–) on the other hand are often misused, or rather not used. These dashes are meant for a range or passage of time, like 8–10 p.m. or Nov. 12–15. Most people end up just putting a hyphen but the correct character here is an en dash. Another thing to note is that you don’t put spaces on either side of an en dash.

The em dash (—) is the largest dash. It’s purpose is to break into a thought. Often times this break is in the middle of a sentence and plops an idea or description in the middle of another thought. The most common mistake here is to use to hyphens instead of an em dash. This is incorrect usage that, like the double space after a period, results from the limitation of typewriters back in the day. Some modern word processor programs will auto-correct a double hyphen to an em dash but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of typing it yourself.

Now that you know a little more about which dash (or hyphen) to use, you probably want to know how to insert them. This Wikipedia article shows the keyboard shortcuts and HTML character codes. You can find a little more reading on the subject of dashes at WikiHow too.

27 Calls for a 30 by 30 Update

One of my first posts on this blog was a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30. Today is my 27th birthday so it’s only fitting take a second look at that list. After all, I’m down to only three years left to complete it.

Here’s the list, newly crossed off items are in red.

  1. Move to a major city
  2. Start a company
  3. Be a major part of a startup
  4. Get back under 200 pounds (getting close)
  5. Get to all 50 states (I think i’m in the 30s already)
  6. Run a 5k (not necessarily in a race)
  7. Go to Europe
  8. Launch an app in an app store
  9. Blog regularly
  10. Learn to play the guitar
  11. Actively pursue speaking German — I’m almost finished with my first semester of Basic German!
  12. Own my own power tools — I’m the proud owner of a saw AND a drill motor 🙂
  13. Write a screenplay (that is more than 5 minutes long)
  14. Brew my own beer — A west coast pale ale that turned out quite well
  15. Perform a wedding ceremony (that’s Rev. Jones to you, sir)
  16. Go on a cross-country road trip
  17. Kayak down a river — My wife and I enjoyed a great little kayak trip while on our honeymoon.
  18. See all of AFI’s top 100 movies — Progress is being made, just about half-way now
  19. Go to SXSW
  20. Visit Australia
  21. Take an “advanced driving” course (where you do cool stuff like slides)
  22. Get a puppy (named Pixel, not that I’ve had this planned forever or anything)
  23. Punch someone in the face (who deserves it of course)
  24. Fire a gun (at a target, at a range)
  25. Live in another country
  26. Ride in a helicopter
  27. Play tennis regularly (again)
  28. Go to Germany with my father (and visit where my Grandmother was born)
  29. Design and publish an e-book (note I didn’t say “write”)
  30. Become friends with my brother — Thanks in large part to disc golf, my brother and I hang out at least once a week, usually even more.

Sure there are a lot left but I’m happy to be making progress. Some friends, Abby and myself have started watching a top 100 movie together every week or two. That said, maybe it’s time I pick up the guitar again or pull out my tennis racket, I’ve only got three years left!

App Review: Solar

Every once in a while I stumble across an app that truly makes me smile. Often it’s resulting from an out-of-the-box way of thinking about user interface and experience. Solar is one of those apps that brought an instant smile to my face.

Solar is, at its most basic level, a weather app. But that doesn’t do it justice. It’s like no weather app you’ve ever seen before. Screenshots won’t even do it justice, you need to experience it. This video will give you a basic idea but I’m telling you, until you have it in your hand and start scrolling through the hours of the day you can’t fully appreciate how cool it is.

In many ways it seems like Solar is the Clear of weather apps. It’s completely simple and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles other apps might boast. That doesn’t matter because it is useful. Very useful. And it does what it does very well. Not to mention it’s fun to use and beautiful.

If you appreciate good user interface and user experience design you should download this app. If you are looking for a simple, easy to use and fast weather app, Solar is the answer. If you’re looking for a weather app with radar and news, this one’s not for you. Check it out in the App Store.

Birthday Deals

I’m a bit of a deal hound and one of my favorite deal times of the year is my birthday. It seems just about any retailer or restaurant with an email club will send you free or heavily discounted coupons. I discovered most of these birthday deals while I was a poor college student but even now, my inbox is still flooded every November (my birthday is the 15th if you were wondering) with coupons. How can I say no to free? I thought I’d compile a list of some of the birthday deals I get every year so you too can be bombarded with freebies. A lot of these are national chains but I’ve thrown in a few Kalamazoo favorites too. Most are emailed to you but a few are just show up kind of deals. Follow the links to sign up.

I’m sure I’m missing some. What are your favorite birthday deals? Let me know in the comments.