By: Rita Ray | September 24, 2019

em dash (width of an m), en dash (width of an n), and hyphen

The em dash is a flexible bit of punctuation—and one of my favorites. You can use it in place of other punctuation. Ben Yagoda, author and professor of English at the University of Delaware, said in an opinion piece in The New York Times, “The Parenthetical Dash can stand in for a pair of commas or parentheses. The Pause Dash can take the place of a period, comma, semicolon—or nothing at all!”

Be careful not to confuse an em dash (—) with the shorter en dash (–) or the even shorter hyphen (-). The em dash is the width of an M. You’ll likely see the em dash written without spaces on either side—however, in newspapers (many of which follow The Associated Press Stylebook) do add spaces around the em dash.

Though it is flexible, it’s not a one-...

Category: Just for Fun 

Tags: Punctuation 

By: Rita Ray | March 21, 2019

Image of an interrobang in a blue circle

Wouldn’t it be great if there was punctuation that both elicited excitement and disbelief? Today, people use a combination of a question mark and exclamation point (“?!”) to express this in informal writing, but back in the early 1960s, the interrobang (“‽”) had its moment of fame thanks to advertising executive Martin Speckter. In 1962 Speckter introduced the interrobang as a “typographically eloquent way in which to end a statement that expresses excited disbelief, asks a question in an excited manner, or proposes a rhetorical question.” Due to its popularity, some typewriters included an interrobang key.

The interrobang was short-lived, however. By the time the late 1960s rolled around, people had reverted to using the combination of...

Category: Just for Fun 

Tags: Punctuation 

By: Rita Ray | September 24, 2018

Picture of a comma

Happy National Punctuation Day! Founded by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day is celebrated in the United States and has been celebrated every year on September 24 for nearly a decade and a half. At Proof It, we’re going to celebrate the holiday by taking a brief look at the comma

Aristophanes of Byzantium was a Greek literary critic and grammarian who became the chief librarian in Alexandria, Egypt in c. 195 BC. Around this time, writers wrote with no spaces between their words justlikethisandleftittothereader to figure it out—now imagine sentences and paragraphs crammed together like this. As you can tell, that caused some issues. Aristophanes suggested using dots of ink aligned with the middle (·), bottom...

Category: Just for Fun 

Tags: Punctuation 

By: Rita Ray | November 23, 2017

Ever get caught up in how to spell or punctuate the name of a holiday? The Chicago Manual of Style lists the following secular and religious holidays, officially designated days, and seasons:

  • All Fools’ Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Earth Day
  • Election Day
  • Father’s Day
  • the Fourth of July, the Fourth
  • Good Friday
  • Halloween
  • Hanukkah
  • Holy Week
  • Inauguration Day
  • Independence Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • Labor Day
  • Lent
  • Lincoln’s Birthday
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • National Poetry Month
  • New Year’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Passover
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Ramadan
  • Remembrance Day (Canada)
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Saint Patrick’s Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Yom Kippur
  • Yuletide


  • D-day
  • a bank holiday

You can find this list in the the 17th edition in section 8.89.

Best Wishes,

Rita Ray

By: Rita Ray | September 24, 2017

National Punctuation Day  

Today is National Punctuation Day! This new holiday was originally celebrated on August 22, the birthday of the founder Jeff Rubin. Rubin wanted a date that he could easily remember, but he changed the date two years later to September 24 so that it landed after the beginning of the school year. He wanted to remind educators to teach students that punctuation matters.

Rubin, a former reporter, would get frustrated at errors he would spot in news articles. He said, "I would sit at the kitchen table with my red Sharpie ... screaming obscenities, which would upset my wife. She encouraged me to find another outlet for my aggravation." (Source: CNN) As a result, in 2004 he secured a listing for National Punctuation Day in the...

Category: Uncategorized 

Tags: Punctuation, Holidays