Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the category “Style”

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

A simple explanation of hyphens and dashes

Hyphens and dashes often look the same, but while they might masquerade as interchangeable symbols, they actually serve totally different purposes.

If knowing the difference between hyphens and dashes was hard enough, did you know there are two types of dashes?

Confused? Then read on.

 

Hyphens

Hyphens are most commonly used to connect two or more words or numbers into a single entity.

They can be used to join compound words…

eye-opener

up-to-date

 or to join numbers…

forty-four.

 They can also be used with prefixes when a word may be ambiguous

re-sign (as opposed to resign).

Sometimes word processing programs will automatically hyphenate a long or compound word, if it can’t fit onto the page, however this setting can usually be turned off. You will most commonly see long words hyphenated in printed material (i.e. books and magazines) where space for print is limited and the published needs to utilise every available inch of white space.

 

Dashes

Dashes are different and shouldn’t be used interchangeably with the humble hyphen. There are two types of dashes:

The ‘en’-dash (n-dash)

The ‘em’-dash (m-dash).

 

En-dash

The en-dash is twice the length of a hyphen and was originally the width of the capital letter ‘N’.  (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL and the subtract key).

The en-dash is a nice little fellow, who likes to unite things together on the page. It is most commonly used to indicate spans of numbers, times and distances. For example:

Pages 57–83

9am–11am

Melbourne–Sydney.

 

The en-dash can also link prefixes to words.

non–English speaking background

post–workout.

 

Em-dash

The em-dash looks similar to the en-dash, except it is three times the length of a hyphen. Originally, it was the width of a capital “M.” (It can be made in Word by holding down CTRL-ALT and the subtract key).

The em-dash performs a totally different function to its brother, en-dash. Where the en-dash unites, the em-dash separates, and is used to separate parts of a sentence, particularly if there is a sudden change in direction of thought, or when emphasis is required. For example:

I drove all the way into the city — you know how much I hate that — only to find out my appointment was for next week!

Em-dashes are often used instead of parentheses (brackets). However, in more formal writing, it is preferable to use parentheses over the em-dash.

Because em-dashes are used for emphasising a particular idea or phrase, you should take care not to overuse them in your writing.

As to whether there should be a space between the words and an em-dash, it’s pretty much up to you. Some style guides say to omit a space and others say to put one in. Just make sure you follow the advice outlined in the style guide you use, and are consistent with how you use it.

 

QUICK TIP:

If you find it difficult to remember the difference between an en-dash and em-dash the following tip may help.

The en-dash being the shorter one, brings things together, while the longer em-dash tends to lengthen the distance between, or separate the elements.

 

If you want help sorting out hyphens from dashes, or want someone to do all the writing for you, please contact us. We’d love to help. 

 

Cheers

Nerissa

 

 

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Writing with numbers

Writing with numbers

Did you know there are rules and conventions surrounding the use of numbers when you write?

Many people don’t.

While rules surrounding the use of numbers and numerals in writing aren’t as strict as those that apply to spelling and grammar, proper use of them, or sticking to an agreed Style Guide can make your writing much easier to read.

Here are some basic rules to make your use of numbers more consistent.

Know when to spell them out
Generally speaking, numbers from one to nine, should be spelled and numbers 10 and above can be written using numerals.

Money talks
When discussing the subject of money, stick to numerals. It is much easier to read. When talking about cents, either write it in full (e.g. “sixty cents” or “60 cents”). Avoid “$0.60”.

Decimals
To avoid any confusion, use numerals when writing out decimals. (e.g. “1.5 per cent”, NOT “one point five per cent”).

Use a comma
Commas should be used in numbers of four or more digits to separate hundreds, thousands and millions, etc. (e.g. 1,500; 100,000, etc.)

Start sentences with words, not numbers
Avoid beginning sentences with numbers. Where possible, re-write the sentence. Where it’s not possible, then spell out the word. (e.g. “Twenty thousand people” instead of 20,000 people). In the case of spelling out compound numbers, use a dash (e.g. “forty-five people”, rather than “forty five people”).

Speeds
When writing speeds, it’s preferable to use numerals, simply because that’s what most people read when they drive. So, the speed limit is “60km per hour”, not “sixty km per hour”.

Years, decades and centuries
You should write the year using numerals (e.g. 2016). However, when it comes to decades or centuries, a spelled out version is preferable (e.g. “the nineties” or “seventeenth century”).

Time
When referring to time, keep it simple and use numerals when referring to time (e.g. “5.15am”, instead of “five-fifteen in the morning”).

Percentages can be tricky
Ultimately, it will come down to the style guide of the organisation you are writing for. If you work for a scientific or medical industry, it may be preferable to express percentage with the symbol ‘%’. However, in more formal writing it is preferable to use ‘percentage’ or ‘per cent’ instead.

Fractions
Fractions should be expressed in a format that is easy to read. That means the top figure in superscript, followed by a slash and the second number in subscript (e.g. “1/8”). Do not use the form “one eighth”.

Temperatures
When writing about degrees, always use numerals. For example, 9 degrees, NOT nine degrees. You may also wish to use the symbol “°”. However, remember that there should be no space between the numeral and the symbol. (e.g. 35°C).

What about recipes?
Recipes are less formal and need to be easy to read and understand. For this reason, express measurements in numeral form. (e.g. “2 tablespoons”, “1 ½ cups”, etc.).

Large numbers
Sometimes large numbers are best rounded up or down, and expressed as a combination of written word and numerals. For example, “200 million” is easier to read than “200,000,000”. However, if you need to write an exact number, use the numeral format (e.g. “200, 186, 348”).

Numbers close together
Every now and then, you will come across two different numbers written next to each other. For example, “we surveyed 12 45-year-olds”. In this case, spell out one of the numbers (usually the lowest number), so it looks like this “we surveyed twelve 45-year-olds”.

Depending upon the genre of your writing and who your audience is, you may find you need to bend some of the above rules a little bit. That’s fine. Just make sure that however you write, you are consistent across the board.

The best way to do this is to develop your own in-house Style Guide.

If you would like help developing a Style Guide for your business, or need help with your writing needs, please contact us. We would love to work with you.

Cheers

Nerissa

Why your business needs a style guide

Why your business needs a style guideNo, we are not talking about fashion. Although having personal stylist would come in handy some days.

The kind of style guide we are talking about is one that applies to your writing. If you write anything (regardless of your industry), you need a style guide. Even if you are working solo and do all the writing yourself, you still need a style guide. If you have multiple people writing for your business or brand, a style guide is vital.

What is a style guide?

In its simplest form, a style guide is a set of ‘rules’ and ‘standards’ to follow with your writing. It promotes consistency in your writing, your branding and your marketing. Consistency is vital across all media channels — websites, emails, letters, social media, blogs, newsletters, reports, etc. — as it fosters professionalism and high standards in your business.

What does a style guide contain?

How long is a piece of string? Seriously, your style guide can contain whatever you want it to contain, from spelling right through to your logo and branding. However, the most common thing style guides contain, are the following:

Language/Style — what voice do you use in your writing? Is it conversational or formal? Is it professional or hip? Knowing who your audience is and understanding their needs will help you decide.

Spelling — what spelling format will you follow? Aus English, UK English or US English. Some words are spelt differently in different countries (e.g. ‘colour’ for Australia and ‘color’ for US). You audience will largely dictate which form to use. Some style guides have a section devoted to words commonly used in their writing. Resembling a dictionary, it provides a quick reference guide on which words to use or avoid, and the preferred spelling (including capitalisation).

Numbers — don’t forget about numbers because they will pop up more than you think. The most accepted style of writing numbers is to write one to nine in words and 10 and above in numbers.

How will you express dates? Is it ‘1 January 2015’ or ‘1/1/15’ or even ‘January 1, 2015’?

What about fractions? Is it ‘1 1/2’ or ‘1.5’?

There is also the question of time and currency. And don’t forget about percentages. Will you use the more accepted ‘per cent’ or the symbolic ‘%’?

Common words and abbreviations — depending upon what industry you are in, there are bound to be some words that you use more often than others. For example, in the health-writing niche the following are commonly used:

* well-being Vs wellbeing

* wholegrain Vs whole grain

* type 2 diabetes Vs type II diabetes

* dietitian Vs dietician

* vegies Vs veggies

There may be no hard and fast rule as to which form to use. You simply need to decide upon one and stick with it.

You also need to decide upon your style when it comes to abbreviations. The most commonly used are ‘e.g.’ (example) and ‘i.e.’ (for instance).

You may also use abbreviations for organisations within your writing — for example, the World Health Organisation (WHO). Because some organisations may have the same abbreviation (Country Fire Authority and Continence Foundation of Australia), it is always wise to spell out the organisation in full with the abbreviation in brackets afterwards. Once you have spelled it out in full, simply use the abbreviation when referring to that organisation for the remainder of your piece of writing.

 Formatting — this means what font you use, the colour and the size. It also refers to your paragraph spacing, underlining, and use of dot points. How will you write your headings? Will they be bold or in UPPERCASE?

Logos — If you have a logo (and what business doesn’t), you need to be clear about how it is used. Things to consider are colour logos, black and white logos, sizing, etc. Your logo is part of your branding so ensure it is consistent across all forms of media. Some brands have different components to their logo, so if this is true for you ensure you know how and when each component is used.

Referencing — If your writing tends to draw upon references, know how you will attribute them. For example, do you refer to the source in-text (e.g. according to the Heart Foundation….) or do you use endnotes (e.g. Heart disease is the leading killer of Australians 1). There are also different referencing styles, so decide which one you are going to use and be consistent with its use.

Developing a style guide may take time and effort. However, it is time and effort well worth spending if you want to develop a professional and consistent brand.

Need to develop a style guide but not sure where to begin? We would love to help. Simply contact us and we will be in touch.

Cheers

Nerissa

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