Dash It All—or Rather, Don’t.

Repeat after me: "I am not Emily Dickinson."

Oh, would that PR writing were more like poetry! We can learn much from that art: precision, economy of language, euphony. But one cue we should not take is to borrow the Belle of Amherst's penchant for using a long dash as a substitute for any and all punctuation. It's becoming an issue; if you don't believe me, tap the nearest editor on the shoulder, look her straight in her bloodshot eyes and ask her which punctuation mark most bedevils her inbox.

To be clear, I love dashes. But I love them for what they are intended to be: moments of emphasis, or abrupt changes and interruptions in a train of thought. Deployed once or twice in a piece of writing, they have a startling effect. "Wake up!" they say. "Curveball comin' at ya!" When they are strewn throughout your copy, your voice comes across as unhinged, unable to communicate coherently, bouncing Robin Williams-like from impulse to impulse.


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