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EDIT TIP: Let’s Talk About Some Punctuation

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

The em dash. I love ’em. It’s often used instead of commas, parenthesis, and colons to offset or add emphasis. But you don’t want to look like you don’t know how to punctuate—or worse—annoy the reader by an abundance of em dashes. In literary agent Elizabeth Kracht's book, The Author's Checklist: An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript, she recommends no more than five sets per chapter and never use one set in the same sentence.

Exclamation points. Holy moly! I did a line edit for a client who had over 500 exclamation points in her 90,000-word manuscript. Needless to say, that is excessive. Everything and everyone seemed to be shouting. Better practice: use no more than a dozen in your project as you want the context to do the work, says Kracht. You want the exclamation point to emphasize but too many dilutes the effect.

I suspect now that I've pointed these issues out to you, you will become more aware and use punctuation more successfully. I can easily recommend Kracht's book. It sits on my desk next to the Chicago Manual of Style and other favorites.


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