Pesky Punctuation Down Under

Lana PecherczykSelf Publishing, Writing0 Comments

E is for Editing: Self Publishing Tips from A to Z

Grammar, English, punctuation, spelling—these are not my forte. It’s been the hardest thing for me to get my head around because I haven’t been able to find the right info online. Most information I find is based on the USA style, and you betcha, Australian versions are pretty much the opposite. Enter the Style Manual. It’s a book revised for the Australian Government on correct styling rules. Go straight to the top I say!

Here are some valuable punctuation editing and styling rules as referenced from the Style Manual (for authors, editors, and printers sixth edition):

  • Use the EM dash for signifying an abrupt change, afterthoughts and sometimes instead of parenthesis. No space is to go between the word and the dash! So a sentence might look like this:
    I peeled them open, one by one and blinked in the dim haze until I could see thousands of white stalactites blur into focus—spiky piranha teeth ready to chomp down on me.
    Did you know that you are supposed to use a double EM dash to mark a sudden break in dialogue? So your sentence would look like this: I covered my mouth with my hand. ‘What ——’ 
    This rule doesn’t really seem to be widely used though, so I may stick with the single EM dash for the break.
  • In Australia, we use the single quotation mark (‘), not the double (“).  We have to use the opposite for quotes within quotes. So a sentence might look like this: ‘The Cauldron is not a “sin-bin,” or a “devil’s playground.” It’s a legitimate establishment where people can enjoy a drink or a meal without prejudice, and learn about the history of witches,’ I said.
  • When using an ellipsis, put a space after the word, then your three dots with no spaces, then a space again, except when it’s at the end of a sentence in dialogue. So your sentence might look like this: ‘Somebody, find me a ’ The rest of his words were lost in the black screeching mist that swarmed the parking lot.
    This sentence could easily use an EM dash to cut off the dialogue, but I prefer to think of it as an ellipsis for words trailing off and an EM dash for abrupt cutting off.

So, fellow Australian writers, what do you think. Is this the way you punctuate your writing? Is it over the top, and are there any other pesky opposite rules we need to be aware of? 

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