There Are Too Many Kinds Of Dashes:

So you’ve got the hyphen. That’s the “-” guy. It joins words together. When you put “-ass” at the end of an adjective, you are using a hyphen. Also when you are separating out the syllables of a word, like for effect—“pre-pos-ter-ous”—that is also a hyphen job. The hyphen’s function in that case is to make clear that these things are joined. The hyphen is an okay-ass punc-tu-a-tion mark.
Then there is what is called the “figure dash.” That, too, is the “-” guy. It has the same meaning and use as the hyphen, but when you use it to connect numbers, rather than words or parts of words, you call it a “figure dash.” Your phone number (555-123-4567) is connected by figure dashes. But let’s be real, here: Those are just frickin’ hyphens. The “figure dash” is bullshit.
Then, if you are a regular reader of this website, you likely know the “em dash,” which several of us, most especially me, overuse badly. (My editor, who also overuses it, added two of them to the first paragraph.) That’s the “—” guy. The long one. It has many uses, but mostly you will see it on either side of an interpolation—not an aside (which would be better marked with parentheses)—in the middle of a sentence. In writing that contains dialog, the em dash also is good for marking an interruption.

(Via Deadspin)
This is the first time I’ve really thought about the various dashes. I knew of them but not really the “official” uses of them, in so far as they are defined.
But wait!

And then, would you believe it, there is a whole other dash. This is the dreaded “en dash.” The en dash is shorter than an em dash but longer than a hyphen. … The en dash does a bunch of stuff. It denotes a closed range or continuum of values … But it can also denote a relationship between two separate or even opposed things, like in a sports score … The en dash can also do other stuff. For example, it can help to sort out PEMDAS weirdness when you’re sticking a prefix (“non-” for example) onto a phrase that is already compound and joined by a hyphen.

Thus, we have five different dashes (if you include the minus subtraction sign as a distinct character for mathematical equations, which I do) that we have to use. This is a mess.
I co-sign on this solution:

So what I am proposing is that there should be two kinds of dashes. There should be a short dash (-) and a long dash (—). The short dash can be for basically everything that you don’t use an em dash for. The long dash can be for the em dash stuff. Ranges can just be short-dashed. Sports scores, too. Nobody is going to think that the Lakers defeated the Wizards by every number between 39 and 173. When I write that you are a goober-ass loser, nobody will wonder if what I mean is that you have somehow lost a coalition between the opposed forces of “goober” and “ass.” It’ll be fine.

The whole article is kind of fun, so read it for the silly sport-y examples.

Shot-clog \Shot”-clog`\, n.
A person tolerated only because he pays the shot, or reckoning, for the rest of the company, otherwise a mere clog on them. [Old Slang]

Here’s some more info …

a bore tolerated only because he or she pays the shot

I’d planned to reimburse Jerry for the meal via PayPal, but after sitting through a lengthy evening of him holding forth on myriad topics, I decided it would be an unfair challenge to his reputation as a shot-clog.

“Alas! I behold thee with pity, not with anger: thou common shot-clog, gull of all companies; methinks I see thee walking in Moorfields without a cloak, with half a hat … borrowing and begging threepence.” — John Marston, Ben Jonson, and George Chapman, Eastward Ho!, 1605

Did you know?
The shot in shot-clog refers to a charge to be paid. It’s a cousin to, and synonymous with, scot, a word likely only familiar to modern speakers in the term scot-free, meaning “completely free from obligation, harm, or penalty.” The origin of the clog part of shot-clog is less clear. Perhaps it’s meant to draw a parallel between a substance that impedes a pipe’s flow and a person who impedes a good time; or perhaps companions’ tabs accumulate before the shot-clog as so much dross in a clogged pipe, while the shot-clog yammers on unawares. The 17th-century playwright Ben Jonson was particularly fond of shot-clog, and while the word is no longer in regular use, it might work for you as a suitable old-time insult for that person in your party who is fine to have around so long as they pick up the tab.

Word of the Day: Shot-clog | Merriam-Webster

Solecism \Sol”e*cism\, n.[F. sol[‘e]cisme, L. soloecismus, Gr.
soloikismo`s, fr. soloiki`zein to speak or write incorrectly,
fr. so`loikos speaking incorrectly, from the corruption of
the Attic dialect among the Athenian colonists of So`loi in
1. An impropriety or incongruity of language in the
combination of words or parts of a sentence; esp.,
deviation from the idiom of a language or from the rules
of syntax.
A barbarism may be in one word; a solecism must be
of more. –Johnson.
2. Any inconsistency, unfitness, absurdity, or impropriety,
as in deeds or manners.
C[ae]sar, by dismissing his guards and retaining his
power, committed a dangerous solecism in politics.
The idea of having committed the slightest solecism
in politeness was agony to him. –Sir W.
Syn: Barbarism; impropriety; absurdity.

Breaking up with the first draft:

I spent some time over the summer re-learning how to write better documents at work. As I look back at the lessons I learnt by observing what I actually changed in how I approached writing, the biggest one was willingly breaking up with the first draft.
Barbara Minto in “The Pyramid Principle” made a strong impression when she said the biggest writing problem most people have is learning to separate the thinking from the writing. She poked fun at how the first draft takes on an “incredible beauty” in the author’s eyes that we don’t like to disturb.
I found her observation to be spot on. We write the first draft for ourselves – to clarify our own thinking. And, if we embrace the process of rewriting, we write subsequent drafts for our intended audience.
There’s a meta learning in this too – we have a tendency to get comfortable after an initial learning period in any new skill. It takes a lot of effort to fight inertia and break out of version 1.0 into the next. And, then again to the next. To get better, we need to embrace “what got you here won’t get you there,” push for feedback and learning, and embrace reinvention.
It is how getting better works – in life as in writing.

(Via A Learning a Day)
I explained my writing process, similar to the above, to a Japanese colleague last week. “First drafts,” I told him, “don’t need to be perfect. They shouldn’t be. Your draft should be a mess and too long and full of notes. Even when getting things refined for version 1, don’t aim for perfect. Aim for good enough.”
Besides, few if any work documents stay static. Those that do either say nothing useful or no one makes use of them.

Why You Should Directly Support as Many News Sources as Possible:

By now most people understand that there’s a serious problem with the news, but I’m not sure how many know how fundamental it is.
Here’s the underlying issue:

  1. The companies that make the news we consume are for-profit businesses.
  2. These companies aren’t just pressured to increase profits, but will go out of business if they don’t constantly adapt to their competition.
  3. The best way to make money for a news site is to sell ads.
  4. Outrage is one of the most powerful methods of getting someone to engage with a story, so that is what we’re seeing more of.
  5. This has effectively destroyed traditional journalism, since companies producing news have no choice but to create stories that will get more attention and ad views.

It’s not a reporter problem, or a media company problem—it’s an incentive problem.
The business model for modern media companies is advertisement, and that business model conflicts directly with the public interest of informing people through balanced coverage.
Advertisements are the center of the media universe because they pay the bills, so if you’re a reporter or an editor, you must do whatever you can to get people to click links. There is no amount of complaint or criticism or nostalgia that will fix this. It’s the business model.

But there’s a solution. We must transition to a world where media companies receive their livelihood from their customers instead of sponsors. We must adopt the subscription model.

I also converted to a subscription model for this site, which wasn’t easy since I could easily make several thousand a month from sponsorships.

Once a company is getting paid from their customers instead of sponsors, they’re free to provide the value that their customers actually want and need. And they’ll no longer have to worry about whether a sponsor will dislike their content.

Here are a few of the sources I subscribe to:

  1. The New York Times Subscribe
  2. The Economist Subscribe
  3. The Wall Street Journal Subscribe
  4. The New Yorker Subscribe
  5. Wired Subscribe
  6. Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast Subscribe
  7. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery Subscribe

That seems like a lot (and I might actually be missing a couple) but I am thrilled to do it.

This is how you fight back. You fight back by directly supporting your favorite sources. Free them. Help them. Liberate them from the bondage of advertising dependency.

So many of the worldwide problems we face are too massive for individuals to make a dent. Global warming is a major problem, and recycling at your house is little more than a spiritual win. Same with giving to a major charity. You know it does good, but it feels like thimbling the ocean.

Not so with this.

This type of direct digital support is so new, and so powerful, that small numbers make a difference.

Don’t sit this one out. Don’t decry the downfall of journalism from the safety of your computer. Do something.

Bring your favorite sources to mind and go sign up to at least one of them.

Be part of the solution.


  1. If you can’t support your favorite sources for financial reasons, that’s fine. Just vow to do so as soon as you can.
  2. Since you asked, you can support my work here. Subscribe

(Via Daniel Miessler)

I totally agree with Daniel. With the exceptions of the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker and Sam Harris’ podcast I have subscribed to the outlets on the list. I’m far less of a fan of Wired these days, so I wouldn’t include it.

I would add:

  1. The Atlantic Monthly Subscribe
  2. Marketplace from APM Subscribe
  3. The Financial Times Subscribe

I won’t let this devolve into another anti-subscription rant, but remember to reflect on all of your subscriptions — services, applications, entertainment, and news — in your financial calculations. These things sneak up on you and your wallet.
I will point out that subscribing to any of these is almost always better going direct to the source and not through a third party like Apple or Amazon unless there is a specific way you want to consume the news, such as reading the Atlantic on your iPad in the Kindle app. When you go through a third party they take a cut up to 30%. Also, if your news source doesn’t have a deal going on for subscriptions, send them an email or give them a call.