During my time at The Varsity, I’ve very quickly realized my propensity for elaborate writing. My work is easily identifiable by a consistent and very convoluted style. I can’t imagine writing any other way.
With this propensity comes a habit infinitely worse than nail-biting or bad posture. That’s amateur shit. My vices make those habits look like Mega Bloks and Play-Doh.
No, I’m talking about something much, much worse: the use of the em dash.
My reliance on the dash has likened itself to an addiction, something I can’t help but crawl back to. Editing sessions primarily consist of em dash removal, making replacements with the stalwart colon or taken-for-granted comma.
To be completely honest, you’ll see a lot of those types of punctuation here because I’m a masochist, I guess. Nobody really asked for it, but here it is: an article free from my overused writing habits.
What have I gotten myself into?
As a self-proclaimed em dash enthusiast, I can safely say that even a throng of writers and grammar police could not solve my compulsion. Is there such a thing as em dashes anonymous? If so, sign me up.
Why such a strong case for the em dash? Though I’m no Emily Dickinson, I find that the dramatism of the em dash is just unmatched. A taut tongue in an unsheltered mouth yearns for a break, and the em dash provides just that: a place to pause and reflect. Sure, a colon, ellipsis, or perhaps even the aforementioned comma could yield a similar effect. But man, it’s just not the same.
To write with em dashes is to clear the noise within my head. As an individual who often struggles to make sense of the writhing, pulsating garbage of my brain, the em dash is pure comfort. The knowledge that I can freely guide an unbloomed sentence into any possible direction for a second? Absolute bliss.
I’ve never once written a sentence that I didn’t want to extend at least a little bit. But alas, I’m a writer in every sense of the word, so I need to grow past my incessant inability to leave perfectly short sentences alone.
After all, we all know that size doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it.
It’d be easier, I suppose, if this was the only poor habit I had acquired as a writer. But I’ve also grabbed onto the most low-hanging fruit and decided my weapon of choice would be love metaphors.
Yes, everything is akin to falling in love, as if I have even the slightest inclination of what that entails. Spoiler alert: I don’t. The amount of times I have had to restrain myself from referring to the em dash as “my beloved” says a lot. I’d write a goddamned love letter to the em dash if I could, but I told myself I’d cut back.
Is this at all original? Not in the slightest. Maybe the reason I feel the need to write this way involves the unrealistic expectations society defines.
Nope. Too rich for my blood.
Why throw a grenade into the writing style I’ve so tastefully developed over the years? For one thing, it’s kind of fun. And this article right here is the reality check I’ve been waiting for. Though I’m knee-deep in my ways, surely I can still change, right?
Probably not, but I’m just being honest here. The em dash is something I innately understand, and love metaphors are something I pretend to understand.
They make for a writing style that is uniquely mine, one that can be identified from a mile away. After all, The Varsity isn’t one shared consciousness. We have excellent formal news writers, captivating features writers, passionate arts and culture reviewers, informative science writers, compelling comment writers. And whatever this is.
Whether you’re a reader, casual writer, staff, or an editor, there’s something for everyone here. When I first encountered the newspaper, I wasn’t sure if my dry humour or ill references would mesh with it. But even I was welcomed with open arms. It’s safe to say that the multitude of writing styles that are showcased within The Varsity are what make this newspaper so representative of the University of Toronto.
It’s also safe to say that an article like this is a very real consequence of giving someone like me free reign and column space.