My love for em dashes is so powerful that, if converted into energy, it could power this website through the upcoming and inevitable nuclear apocalypse. When I asked my coworkers what they thought of em dashes, staff writer Nathaniel Lee asked, “the pretentious dash?” Our CEO, Scott Richmond, added, “the only reason I don’t use them is that they’re too long. It’s all about the space conservation.” Much like my esteemed coworker, he is wrong.*
Let’s go back to grammar school, so y’all can get grammar SCHOOLED.
Parentheses. These are the basic bitches of the grammar world. If they were a statement piece, the statement would be no comment. Parentheses set aside parenthetical phrases—that is, phrases that are unnecessary for the meaning of the sentence. Commas and em dashes accomplish the same task, but em dashes get the points for sheer panache, baby! The whole point of parentheses is that they de-emphasize the nonessential phrase you’re setting aside. Example: Nasopharyngitis (the common cold) may be impossible to eradicate. Nobody’s that excited about the common cold. Come on.
Commas. These are just store-brand em dashes, watered down versions without all that spicy flavor. The comma is a neutral syntactical choice. You’ve heard of the dramatic pause? Get ready for the anticlimactic pause. Example: My girlfriend, a phenomenal cook, made a delicious sandwich. Is it newsworthy that your girlfriend is a phenomenal cook? Unlikely. My girlfriend—Belletrist babe and notorious reader Emma Roberts—made a delicious sandwich. Now, there’s a parenthetical phrase that would transcend commas. (Also, call me, Emma.)
Em dashes. Let’s consider what ‘nonessential’ actually means. Technically, stylistic choices like leopard print coats and pink hair are nonessential. But when you walk into a room, don’t they get the job done? Hell yeah. The air horn of the punctuation world, the em dash does the same thing as parentheses and commas but with an entirely different tone. Example: My sister—who slept with my husband—just asked me for money. Let’s try again: My sister (who slept with my husband) just asked me for money. Did this happen? No. If it did, would I have used an em dash to relay the info? You know it.
Image Via Grammarly
That being said, even my beloved em dash is not perfect. You know how books sometimes start off with sound effects? Bang. My ex-husband was dead. Wham! My sixteenth birthday, the day of the Trial that would determine my whole future, began when my jealous sister slapped me with my own Timesetter. You get the message. You can’t start off a book with bang! Wham! Crash! Boom! You could, but it would be annoying—and it’s possible you’re annoyed already. Similarly, you can’t fill an article with em dashes (though if you click anything by Krisdee Dishmon, you’ll realize I’ve certainly tried).
Time for Q&A. The major question people have seems to be ‘aren’t these interchangeable?’ That, of course, is a subcategory of all the more pressing questions. ‘Isn’t grammar pointless? Will someone ever want to date you?’ The answer to all three, as you might be shocked to learn, is a resounding NO.
Image Via Translabo Berlin WordPress
For the same reason that you wouldn’t use an exclamation point to conclude an uneventful sentence, you wouldn’t use an em dash for a job that parentheses can do. Can you? Sure. Should you? I say no. As Josh from Drake and Josh would say, it’s for emphasis. EMPHASIS! (Click here if you don’t get that reference.)
You may be wondering whether or not I have a right to this opinion: a passion for em dashes that, if converted into a numeric value, would dwarf the GDP of even the wealthiest nations. Yes, I do. They may not have hired me at my local coffee shop, but, as a creative writing graduate and former English teacher / SAT grammar tutor, I am good for something—even if that thing is yelling on the Internet.
*I respect you very much, Scott. I just also respect the commanding presence of the em dash.
Featured Image Via Radix Communications
Students no longer have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to learn all there is to know about science-fiction literature. Instead, they can do it from the comfort of their living room (more specifically, the comfort of their pajamas). Signum University isn’t just an online college: it’s a university entirely dedicated to the study of genre fiction from a literary, historical, and philosophical perspective. Talk about the ultimate fantasy—which, of course, is also a subject. So, congratulations, genre nerds! (Of course, I say that with the utmost affection.) You can now put “majored in Tolkien” in your Tinder bio and mean it.
Yes, Signum University’s logo looks like it should be adorning the cover of a Hunger Games novel. Signum University’s specializations include Tolkien Studies; Imaginative Literature; Classic, Medieval, and Renaissance Literature; and Germanic Philology (the study of Germanic languages). Each of these programs falls under the M.A. in Language & Literature, an accredited program of graduate study. While the degree takes two to seven years to complete depending on the number of credits per semester—which can vary due to work or financial reasons-students are welcome to audit single classes for drastically reduced costs. You may not be able to major in Star Wars, but you can take an academic course on it.
Image Via Time Magazine
Other courses of note include Sherlock, Science, and Ratiocination; Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft; The Potter Saga; and Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth. Though degree credits are more expensive, individual, twelve-week courses can cost as little as $95—for some, that’s a small price to pay for a world of information (or several, as the case may be). Cory Olsen, the university’s founder, said that the ideal students are working professionals who want to take the courses for “personal enrichment.” That enrichment, it seems, isn’t about getting rich—there probably aren’t a lot of entry-level jobs in Tolkien Studies. But you can study the Harry Potter franchise and make your coursework magical.
Image Via Signum University
Though early in its certification process, Signum University‘s New Hampshire accreditation is its first step to national official recognition, which would allow the institution to begin conferring master’s degrees nationwide. Let’s hope this degree program also moves out of this country—that would only make sense when it’s already out of this world!
Featured Image Via Financial Times
Getting a free gift when you purchase a new book is always fun, but how would you react if that gift was some pot?
BlazeMichigan is a new Ann Arbor based book-selling company that gives patrons a small portion of marijuana with every book bundle purchase. You can purchase a $65 bundle that includes two used books and four free “edible” gifts or a $400 bundle with twenty-four books and fifty-six gifts.
The business was started in January by Stephanie Swearengin and Chris Rau. As of today, their website has reported over 759 books have been purchased and counting.
Marijuana laws in Michigan is a bit tricky. As of December 2018, recreational marijuana is allowed, but selling it is still illegal. Swearengin insists that they do not sell marijuana, but she acknowledges the gray area that her practice creates.
“We’ve talked to multiple lawyers about the issue and as far as we can tell it’s just a large gray area. Just like medical dispensaries. I mean with the state and the federal law, it’s already a gray area. Even though medical marijuana has been legal, they can still get shut down by the feds. So if you ask me it’s all kind of gray.”
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz has issued a stern warning to the company. “People engaging in this activity are definitely subjecting themselves to potential prosecution.”
Featured Image Via Medical News Today.
If a book doesn’t contain any words, is it really a book? That’s the question a lot of people have been asking after the inclusion of a very curious piece of “literature” at the University of Michigan library.
Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, the art and design librarian for the university, acquired a book titled 20 Slices last year. It is a small book containing twenty Kraft cheese slices sandwiched together. And that’s it. That’s the whole book.
Image Via Saveur
The inclusion of the cheese book has garnered a divided response from people at the University. Nevertheless, it has sparked an interesting discussion on what a “book really is. According to Broek, that was the idea.
“It engaged this part of people that has a really developed, but probably not conscious, sense of what a book is and should be. There’s almost a morality associated with the physical nature of a book, and this was an aberration. And I thought, ‘Wow, if it can make people who talk about books every day feel like that, then this is perfect.’”
The book was designed by New York artist Ben Denzer. Other book-related art pieces he’s made include books made out of ketchup packets, ice cream sandwiches, and even books on wheels.
You can find them on his website.
Featured Image Via Saveur