Monthly Archives: February 2014

Quick tutorials: what is an en-rule?

iStock_000018482964XSmallIn this new occasional feature, Tips for writers, I’m going to be covering a range of topics drawn from my experience as a book editor and teacher.

First up is a quick tutorial on the use of a punctuation mark, the en-rule—rather a dry subject, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it’s one of those things writers often ask me to explain. So here we go…


There are four types of dash available to writers: hyphens, en-rules, em-rules and 2-em rules. Most people are familiar with hyphens; fewer with the others. Here I’m focusing on the en-rule, but first let’s see what the four look like:

–  hyphen (as in light-hearted, co-worker, south-west)

–  en-rule (as in June–July, pages 6–10, mother–child relationship, Perth–Sydney flight)

—  em-rule (as in There are two main ingredients—lemon and garlic—in that sauce.)

——  2-em rule (as in He started to shout, ‘You’re a crazy——,’ but the gunshot felled him.)

Conventional uses of the en-rule

The en-rule dash often expresses a from/to or between/and relationship, joining:

  • spans of time, distance, figures (i.e. June–July indicates from June to July; pages 6–10 indicates from page 6 to page 10)
  • two entities that retain their separateness (i.e. mother–child relationship indicates a relationship between mother and child; Perth–Sydney flight indicates a flight between Perth and Sydney)

Don’t make the common error of mixing an en-rule with one part of a from/to or between/and pair:

  • not  from June–July (should be from June to July or just July–July)
  • not between Perth–Sydney (should be between Perth and Sydney or just Perth–Sydney)

Other uses of the en-rule

The en-rule is used instead of a hyphen with prefixes when the prefix is attached to more than one word. Compare non-speaking part and non–English speaking part:

  • the hyphen is correct in non-speaking part (the prefix non is attached to one word, speaking)
  • the en-rule is correct in non–English speaking part (the prefix non is attached to two words, English and speaking)

The same reasoning applies to compound adjectives preceding a noun. Compare war-related wound and World War II–related wound:

  • the hyphen is correct in war-related wound (it’s joining war and related)
  • the en-rule is correct in World War II–related wound (it’s joining World War II and related)

New use of the en-rule

In recent years, some publishers have adopted as their house style (particularly for fiction) the used of unspaced en-rules where em-rules have traditionally been used. To use the example given earlier, instead of the conventional use of em-rules in:

  • There are two main ingredients—lemon and garlic—in that sauce.

we have:

  • There are two main ingredients – lemon and garlic – in that sauce.

This is a matter of style rather than correctness, provided it’s used consistently, athough I confess to disliking the flimsy little en-rule being roped in to do this kind of double duty. Give me a typographically muscular unspaced em-rule any day! (Honestly, it takes a nerdish soul to write that sentence.)

0701636475There are other issues involved in the use of en-rules, but this quick tutorial covers the most common and I hope some of you find it helpful. If you need more information, I always recommend the Style manual for authors, editors and printers (6th edition, John Wiley & Sons Australia, 2002), to which this quick tutorial, as well as my knowledge generally on the nuts and bolts of writing, is indebted. This edition of the Style manual might be an old source now but it’s still considered to be a standard text in the Australian publishing context, as were all the editions that came before it.

Happy writing!


Filed under Editing, Tips for writers

A February photo-reminder…

… to keep looking down, too!



Filed under Photo-reminders looking up/looking down

3, 3 and 3: Emily Mann, PWF program manager

This month’s 3, 3 and 3 guest is one of the busiest people in Perth right now.

Emily Mann (c) Scott Weir

Photograph © Scott Weir

Emily Mann is program manager of the Perth Writers Festival, which will be launched on 20 February, followed by a packed three-day program running through to 23 February. She has been hard at work since early 2013, developing a vibrant, exciting, thought-provoking program of writers with stories to tell and ideas to share. More than 100 local writers will be joined by some of the finest from elsewhere in Australia, among them Richard Flanagan, Anne Summers, Chris Womersley, Alexis Wright, Hannah Kent and Thomas Keneally. Overseas guests include Lionel Shriver,  Margaret Drabble, Martin Amis and this year’s Man Booker Prize winner, Eleanor Catton.

Emily worked at Sydney Writers’ Festival from 2008 to 2012, and she holds an MA Writing (Research) from the University of Technology, Sydney.

I’m thrilled that Emily was able to find time in her schedule to tell us about some of the things she loves.

3 things I love about what I do

1. The exposure to new books and authors
It goes without saying that I have a fantastic job for a booklover. It is a pleasure to read new works and to read beyond my usual tastes to find new and interesting authors and books. It is an even greater pleasure to be able to share new finds with others.

2. The audience
I enjoy watching people engage with writers’ festivals. I love to see friends sit down together and pore over a program, circling events and comparing their schedules. It is heartening to sit in audiences and see people deep in concentration or writing furiously in notebooks. There is nothing like the excited chatter of an audience coming out from a dark auditorium into the daylight after a major session. The audience lies at the heart of what we do.

3. The intensity of festival life
Working on literary festivals is quite unlike any other work cycle. Every month of the programming and planning process is another season, with the pressure building until the event. When the actual festival occurs it often feels like the eye of a hurricane passing over you. Then, once it has ended, the clean-up efforts begin and eventually you are back at square one, wondering if you could ever find the stamina to repeat the cycle. You always do.

3 places I’d like to visit or revisit

1. Paris
I once spent a hardscrabble year living in Paris about ten years ago. It was a brilliant, enervating and dramatic existence. I haven’t returned to Paris since, and I would like to return again soon—this time with money.

2. New Zealand
I am currently planning a trip to New Zealand following this festival. I would like to lose myself somewhere cool, green and damp for a while. I’ll be taking Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family and A Man in Love, both of which I have been holding off reading until I have an uninterrupted stretch of time available.

3. Sea
I love seagoing narratives, both fictional and factual. I am equally enamoured by Melville’s Moby Dick as I am by Junger’s The Perfect Storm, Shackleton’s South and Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki. I have often wondered what kind of hold these tales of man versus sea have over me. Perhaps it’s the overcoming of adversity, the testing of the self against the elements. I do wonder if I am an armchair adventurer: I guess I should take myself to sea to find out.

3 favourite festival experiences

1. My first writers’ festival event
My first experience of a writers’ festival remains one of my strongest memories. I snuck out of work one day and went down to Walsh Bay in Sydney to see a session in a very early Sydney Writers’ Festival. Michelle de Kretser was speaking on The Rose Grower. I took a seat in a crowded room and listened to a novelist talk at length about her work. She was not talking through a journalist or writing about her own work in a stylised and edited article. She was revealing her thoughts and experiences of writing a novel, live and unadulterated on a stage. It was exhilarating and I was hooked.

2. Shaking James Wood’s hand
I rarely ask for an autograph from authors; however, this year at a festival I had the opportunity to meet a man who is like a god to me: the critic James Wood. Not only did he sign my battered and dog-eared copy of How Fiction Works, he also shook my hand. I confess to being completely star-struck by authors whose work I have held on to closely over the years.

3. Freedom of speech
For me, a personal favourite festival experience is people exercising their right to freedom of speech. It could be an audience member querying a panellist, or two artists challenging one another in conversation. Opinions obviously differ and writers’ festivals are a democratic space where people can voice their opinions constructively, hopefully without lapsing into offence. I relish these moments because they actively demonstrate the importance and the need for writers’ festivals today, and show how keen people are to engage with the larger conversations about our lives.

Browse or download the Perth Writers Festival program and the list of authors here.

The festival program runs 20–23 February 2014,
on the grounds of UWA.



Filed under 3 3 and 3 (creative people)