The dash is a neglected species of punctuation marks — funnily so, not because it's just an obsolete sign without purpose, and not because it's not used. It can be spotted everywhere, in all kinds of writing. People use it, the dash fulfills a need. Rather, it's neglected because only few people seem to care about using it correctly. By correctly, I mean: according to function.
A small line that simply varies in length? Why waste thoughts on sign that is typographically as challenging as the dot or the slash, that is about as sexy as the mole rat, and that makes your life — which is probably already filled with enough stuff you have to keep up with — even harder?
It's about purpose
The dash is a simple line that can be applied very effectively. There is meaning in a dash. The dash introduces versatility to writing and takes it to another level — the level of consciousness, of elegance. It allows for variation in style, it changes the tone and voice of your writing. It's a tool that can be very powerful if it's applied for the right job. Yes, you can drive that nail into the wall with the back of a wrench, but you could also just use a hammer.
Along the same lines, you wouldn't replace a period with a comma, a colon with an interpunct, a slash with a stroke or backslash.
Admittedly, I'm using the dash in an inflationary manner in this post — if only to make a point. But it's much more about what in German is termed "fingerspitzengefühl", the subtle touch that can make something go a long way.
No matter who you are, whether hitting a keyboard is what you make a living on or not: if you care about your writing, you should make sure to use the dash correctly.
Types of Dashes
Let's make sure we get the terminology straight, so we know what we're talking about.
(Yes, each of the following is usually represented in any well-designed font.)
(Yes, it matters on the web, too.)
Each font applies slightly different measurements and styles. The one above is Garamond.
The hyphen is often referred to as a dash, although that's not entirely correct. The hyphen is used to connect words or prefixes and to sepa-rate words in justified text. That's about it. So use it if you want to say "three-year-old banana", "orang-utan", "love-letter", "soul-wrenching", "arm-wrestler", or in names (such as Mary-Anne Clumsberg-Finkelstein).
The HTML entity for the hyphen is
Longer than the hyphen. Use it in mathematical equations. Not for anything else. Never.
The HTML entity for the minus sign is
Longer than the minus, about the size of an "n" in most fonts. Use it to indicate closed ranges of values, such as a time frame, temperature ranges, and from … to relationships or connections of any kind; especially if one part is to receive more weight than the other.
This dash lets you aim for accuracy and disambiguation. The classic example is from Strunk & White: The Chattanooga News and the Free Press merged, resulting in the Chattanooga News-Free Press. If you're smiling, my congratulations: you have understood the use of the en-dash.
The en-dash is also the only appropriate sign for a bullet mark.
You may use the en-dash to introduce a segment — a thought — into your sentence by including a space before and after the en-dash. This is common practice in German or French, and the internet's lingua franca — a watered-down version of English — seems to have generally adopted it. The die-hard dash-police officer would certainly disagree with this use in English. She wouldn't be entirely incorrect: you may also use the em-dash, which might be more apt for your purpose.
The HTML entity for the en-dash is
Usually about twice the size of the n-dash, approximately the width of an "m" in most fonts.
Some writers use a double hyphen (- -) to indicate the purpose of an m-dash. That's a relic from typewriter times. Are you writing on a typewriter? Do you want to pretend you're writing on a typewriter? In that case, please go all the way and imitate that terribly obnoxious hammering noise, including the CA-CHING!!! sound at the end of each line. If not, don't use double hyphens. Welcome to the 21st century. (Sometimes, however, you will not get around using double hyphens to indicate an em-dash, especially in some text editors and social media platforms. Most of them let you type an en-dash, though, which you should then space to create a similar semantic effect as the em-dash.)
The em-dash is one of the most beautiful punctuation marks. Not because of its visual concept, but because of the semantics it introduces. I'd like to refer you to some masters.
Apt use of the em-dash induces dynamics, rhythm, sprightliness, or reluctance and prudence. Its purposeful application implies a humbleness before the sign, before the craft of writing, and also indicates that you know about and care for what you are doing.
The em-dash can be used to insert a thought, or break of thought, a specification of a concept. In contrast to parentheses (also commonly used to set apart sections of sentences) the dash has the effect of highlighting the interpolation (which is meant to be read, rather than giving us cause to skip it as unimportant). If you feel that ending a sentence with a period and then introducing that thought with a new sentence would disconnect the thoughts, whereas a connection with comma would not separate them enough, use an em-dash.
The em-dash is also a versatile tool in creative (or let's say "fictional") writing, for example as an ellipsis or interrup—
You may also find it useful if you want to disjoint sentence parts, as in "So how's the wife and — dammit Justin, how many times have I told you not to lick the dead rabbits! — anyway, what I meant to say …"
It's fine to also space the em-dash (unless it's particularly long and looks iffy with spaces).
The HTML entity for the em-dash is
No matter what you do: be consistent
Back-pedaling a bit, it needs to be stated that uses of the dashes, even the "official" or "authoritative" ones, tend to vary. But — as with most aspects of writing — consistence is key. Never, though, is it acceptable to just replace a dash with a hyphen or a minus, unless you aim to build a reputation as a bad stylist. Rather, experiment with them until you get a good feel for the dynamics. Awareness and a little practice will improve your writing skills.
You could be the em-dash of contemporary writers.
About a month ago, Rockstar Games released GTA V, which is actually the 15th part of the GTA series. It was titled “Best Selling Game”, “Most Expensive Game In Production” and so on. It also broke records like “Most Mini Games Within A Game”. But the most impressive part is something different.
GTA 5 had a total production value of about $137.000.000. Compared to the most expensive movie, “Avatar”, with a production value of $237.000.000, this may sound “cheap”. But Rockstar made about $800.000.000 only by the pre-orders in one day. Avatar, in comparison, made $233.000.000 during the first three days of the movie release—not even covering the production value. Rockstar gained almost 600% of GTA’s production cost. That is much more than Avatar made after a couple of days. It’s absolutely impressive how much money they made in such a short time.
I was pretty excited before the release, so I got myself a copy as soon as possible. The first reviews of others where amazing and gave me a deep look inside the gameplay. I took a short vacation from Opoloo, stocked up on fastfood and snacks and locked myself in for the full experience.
You start with a couple of easy missions to get familiar with the controls. After the first mission, it’s up to you to continue with completing the story or start exploring the world on your own. To get in touch with the whole game, I started to complete all the main missions before exploring other activities like skydiving, all kinds of races, rampages, driving around the world map, or playing mini games like golf, tennis and more.
In GTA 5, you can switch between 3 main characters. A ghetto thug boy, a rich family father in retirement, and a total redneck psychopath. This is the most epic combination ever! It’s so much fun because of the completely different personalities you get to play with, and it gets even funnier during heist missions where they come in conflict with one another. You need to switch between them to cover your buddies and make your way through.
The main story has 69 individual parts, some of them more extensive than others—the heist missions. You can even choose between different plans for the heists. The normal missions are usually shorter, but you can still choose different interactive solutions to pass them.
In heist missions, you gather with other characters and plan different ways to complete the heist. One of the characters is “the brain” of your team and he shows you ways to get the job done. After his short presentation you can choose between A, B and C and also select some additional accomplices, like a driver, a gun man, and hackers. This is amazing for the experience, because you can customize your team and really plot the mission.
The accomplices you can choose have different abilities. Depending on their skills, they also get more or less of the cake once the heist is finished.
If you don’t want to do missions, no problem. You can do a lot of things instead, like sports (skydiving, tennis, etc…), mini games, pissing off the police, or go to a strip club and get a private dance. There are so many opportunities to have fun, you wouldn’t believe it.
Some of my friends told me “The story is boring and pretty short”. 69 missions aren’t that long, but the missions themselves are amazing in their variety: Short, long, easy and difficult missions. Everyone will be satisfied. Completing the story took me at least 4 days of playing, which is totally okay. I’m not disappointed by the story like some of my friends. I can also see that I have a lot of days left to finish the rest of the game, so I can clearly not understand what my friends told me about the story and gameplay.
While finishing the main story, I also completed some side missions and came up with a game completion of 75% in about 4 days (8-12 hours playing each day).
The online mode
After finishing the story, I spent some hours in the online mode. I was curious, because I had experienced the unofficial online mode for GTA San Andreas, which was already pretty good. But the online mode for GTA 5 has blown my mind, it’s a very good online game, where you can do whatever you want, together with your own friends.
First of all you need to create your character. This part is very interesting because you don’t only create your character, you also create 4 grandparents and 2 parents which automatically leads to your character. It’s not that easy to make your character look like you want, but it’s fun. First I had some trouble, but I came up with some redneck-looking grandparents, which led to the same appearance of the parents and led me to my character. He’s looking a little bit Southern, but is clothed and styled like a young business man. Once you’re done, you can join the online mode.
Starting with the initial missions to learn some things about the online mode. After that, you can do whatever you want. Kill other players, race them, or create your own crew with your friends to do the heists.
You can increase your rank with several methods, deposit or withdraw your money at ATMs, or put money on someone else head. In case other players are pissing you off and you’re not able to drive to your ATM, you can activate the passive mode in the settings (you’ll be charged $100 to activate it). In the passive mode, you’re not able to kill players or get killed.
I haven’t played that much online but it’s already a lot of fun and slightly different to the single player mode.
GTA 5 is absolutely worth giving a try. The story, graphics and online mode are awesome and full of fun. It’s an expensive game, but still worth buying it.
I’ve spent only one week’s time with the game before I started writing this article but I had a lot of fun and I’ll definitely go on playing. I hope you’ll have as much fun as I have with GTA 5.
This Hook is a little heavier on the reading side than previous editions, but we took great care to provide you with articles that should matter to you and make you think, regardless of your business background. They roughly circle around the themes of business, work, capitalism, and revolutions. An odd combination?
Make yourself comfortable and feed your brain.
The law of capitalism which says "you should pay your employees as little as possible" is a myth that has been around since the industrialization. Henry Blodget dispels that myth, and very appealingly so, with rhetoric and real data.
by Casey Newton / The Verge
How even great companies and ideas can fail, and why this should still not discourage you: the story of everpix.
"Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul."
Anthropologist David Graeber explores the current phenomenon of us working. Or, more precisely, working too much in jobs nearly completely devoid of value, meaning, and sense.
by John Lax
Teehan+Lax always had a slightly unusual philosophy; one that didn't exactly match traditional business structures. John Lax gives us some insights into a company that make some of the coolest products around today, with a different approach.
by Naomi Klein / New Statesman
"There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules."
Naomi Klein on the question of "Is Earth F*cked?", and if it is — which seems to be "more or less" the case — what we can do about it.
A story about courage in an environment of repression and scaremongering.
Everyone who takes photos knows the difficulty: deciding about the perfect focus for an image and getting it just right before pulling the trigger of the camera.
Last week, I went to a photo store to have a medium format film processed. I spotted a poster of the new Lytro camera which promised to ultimately solve that focus problem.
Founded in 2006, the company Lytro Inc. developed a light field camera, which records the entire light field of an image instead of a 2D image. The first model was introduced in the USA in the summer of 2012. The light field measurement is made possible by a grid of multiple microlenses in front of the image sensor. Thus, with a software, subsequent editing is possible: you can refocus, change perspective, and add filters to the image.
Inspired by the poster, I looked for a salesperson to consult me personally. When I held the camera in my hand, the first thing that caught my eyes was the design. It’s very handy, lightweight, and available in many bright colors. The design is a bit unusual for a camera, but the body looks very beautiful nonetheless. At the rear of the camera, there is a very pixelated display that makes interacting with the small screen a delicate matter of precision. The cubical camera has only 2 buttons and 1 slider: the shutter button & slider for zooming sit at the top and the power button at the bottom.
At first, I was puzzled about how to hold the body correctly because of the unusual design. Holding it like a telescope seems to work best. First up, I tried out the zoom. The handling of the buttons is very easy, but finding a good image detail with the display, which has a really bad resolution, is troublesome. Moreover, it’s very small with a size of 1.5”. After a few shots, I noticed I needed to arrange the objects in the image. That is, the object must have a minimum distance to the background to get a good depth of focus to play with.
In addition to the optical 8x zoom the lens has an aperture of 2.0 throughout and a focal length of 43-340mm. This is important for shooting high-quality photos in in darker settings. Even when you have to zoom, no luminosity gets lost.
Videos are not possible with the first version of the camera, but are planned for the next one. The camera has a non-expandable memory of 16GB, so 700 shots are possible. The exported photos have a resolution of 540x540px and a size of about 120MB.
For me, the camera is just a simple and nifty gadget with easy focus control. The technology is definitely still expandable. I am very disappointed with the image quality, the display, and especially the price: in the U.S, you can get the camera for 399$, whereas the price starts at 480€ here in Germany. I think I’ll rather spend that money on a new lens for my actual camera Canon 60D.
If you’re still curious, go try out a living picture yourself.
Sitting at my desk, I put aside my digital pen and launch a basic text editor. The small window pops up and the blinking cursor draws my attention, urging me to answer its purpose. I obey. While listening to the rhythmic sound of the key strokes, letters appear in front of me. Dark pixels in a sea of white.
A less-than sign starts the journey to love & power.
Not clearly understanding what I’m doing here, I hit more keys, their plastic groaning under my fingers:
Slightly confused, I want to break off this endeavor. This is not satisfying at all. I look away, expecting to find clarity elsewhere. The desk with my laptop. Both placed with a geometric precision, their rectangles aligned. On the other side of the room, a door sits within the wall, sharing the same replicable pattern. The shapes of my surroundings are clean, geometric, recognizable — differentiation through perfect symmetry. That’s it. Shifting back to the tiny, white window, I can finalize the picture and infuse harmony and visual aesthetic. All I need is a
Leaning back, I try to get better view of my work. 6 black signs have populated my screen and thoughts.
I want to get up, grab coffee, move on, but the blinking cursor wants more. What are those letters without meaning, anyway? This is surreal. I want to connect more deeply with the signs, with the machine. I want to give her a face. By quickly typing
she starts to take shape. Hitting more and more keys, my mind attentively wanders down from her brow to her chin,
to her elegant shoulders.
I can’t help but smile, recognizing how beautiful she turns out.
Staring at her feet I flick back up. I shake my head in apology, trying to regain some trust. While I have shamelessly examined her from tip to toe, I hadn't even asked for her name.
She blinks, smiles back and replies
Connect? What a strange and interesting name. I want to know more. Careful now. She must feel very vulnerable. After all, she just revealed herself to me and the whole world.
I step closer to comfort her, listening to her voice, to her breath, to her heart. There, in the center of her body it beats with a constant rhythm. After a while, the rhythms seems to become a pattern. Slowly, from that pattern, words emerge.
“Hello world”? Seriously? This is so lame. It can’t be right. I created something that complex and beautiful and all I get in return is “Hello world”? How about my feelings, my dreams? Does she even care about me? Hoping this was just a misconception, I tilt my head slightly and listen, focused. More words appear.
This is your idea, your opinion, your message.
It slowly starts to sink in. This is a lesson in communication. A single word can take a country to war or bring instant peace. It can start a revolution or fix a crisis. It can be power for some and love for others. The right word at the right time and place can change everything. That’s what she’s been telling me all along. I could be nothing without her and everything with her. It’s up to me.
Grateful for the lesson learned, I step back. As her image slowly fades from my inner eye, everything becomes white. Black spots appear in this sea of white, forming characters, framed by the pixels of my screen. I hit save, close my laptop and leave you with a link:
Two weeks ago, we open sourced our blog platform LINES — the one you’re looking at right now — for everyone to try out, customize, and collaborate. We also went the extra mile and created a set of fallback hero images, for the extra lazy bloggers out there. Since those turned out to be pretty nice, we scaled those up a little for your desktop and device wallpaper pleasures.
Set them directly from the previews or download the ZIP below.
by Jonas Downey / 37signals' Signal vs Noise
To all you great designers: you could be even greater if you made an effort to write. To write well, that is. This involves editing. True, it's hard and you need practice. But you'll never get the practice if you don't start.
A very nice responsive HTML5 template, made with the skelJS framework. What's even better: you can download it for free.
This is just ridiculous. (Ridiculously cool, that is. "The synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping onto moving surfaces." Yeah.)
04 Ironic Serif
by Keith Houston / via Maria Popova's Brain Pickings
It's said as an advice to every writer that the reader won't get if you're ironic (which is not true, I believe). With all our history of type and iconography, why is there still no symbol for irony? A fantastic book review on Brainpickings.
"The secret history of punctuation, spanning from antiquity to the digital age, from the asterisk to the @-symbol, chronicling the strange and scintillating lives of the characters, glyphs, and marks that populate the nooks and crannies of human communication. Though many of them are familiar staples of everyday life, the most fascinating story is one of punctuational peril — the failed quest for a symbol to denote irony."
A French studio with a pretty nifty, original website that includes huge HTML videos and sound as part of the experience. For all the freaky effects, it's a nice example of storytelling and letting your portfolio speak for itself.
by Manil Suri / The New York Times
I've always hated math. I still do. It's part of my horrible "I-don't-get-it-it's-the-devil-leavemealone" attitude. This guy made the first step to change my mind.
"As a mathematician, I can attest that my field is really about ideas above anything else. Ideas that inform our existence, that permeate our universe and beyond, that can surprise and enthrall."
As a musician or a band, the thing you're probably most concerned about is your music. You should be. Write great tracks, find a distinguished sound, file and refine it, record the songs. Awesome. Now how to get people to listen to them?
Of course, you play live. But how to get people to come to your concerts?
OK, you got it. You have to do some kind of marketing if you want to get out of your basement. If you think the music industry with its traditional record labels stinks, there are platforms you can work with: Bandcamp, Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, and on. This kind of dispersion has never been easier.
To keep track of, maintain, update, and curate all these platforms, along with maybe a nice website* where you post everything all over again is cumbersome. Chances are you won't find time to do all that properly.
And just because you have some kind of output, that doesn't mean you're doing marketing yet. It just means you throw something out there, hoping it magically finds an audience itself.
The Times, They Are A-Changin'
Part of the problem is that the way we consume music has changed. A couple of years ago, music was much more of a distinguishing factor for personalities. It was an identifier. You had to actively seek out the music that you were interested in, be it hardcore punk, tin pan alley blues, underground techno, or socio-critical hip hop. Depending on how eclectic or unusual your taste was, you had to go great lengths to keep up-to-date in your scene. That was part of the fun, part of the specific knowledge and insight, part of what made you the person you were. You spent time doing research, and once you paid 15 quid for an album, you enjoyed it with a sublime kind of appreciation. A while ago, you could still make a point in saying: "I like psychedelic rock."
But that has changed. By way of better, more efficient channels, we have almost all the music in the world at our fingertips. One result of this is that we listen to a much broader range of music. It has become easier to filter for the good stuff by being interconnected, but it has also become harder to really find the raw diamonds, the hidden treasures, the stuff that really matters to you, because we're flooded with consumer goods. There's too much to read, too much to play, too much to watch, and too much to listen to. So how can you make your music stand out and make sure it reaches your audience?
Make People Care
I'm aware that there is no easy or single true answer for this question. But one answer would be: tell stories. Enough of social media already! They do a couple of things really well, like sharing the stuff you produce and tracking popularity, but they do not engage your audience emotionally. They do not make you stick out of the bunch. They do not tell your audience why they should care. A good story does that. And if there's no story behind your music, it's probably not worth a damn.
True, there are also infinite ways of telling a story, and you have to find the one that fits you best. Consider. Think about what your music means to you and how you feel about it. Then, write it down. Get it out of your head. Hell, once you have a story, share it with social media. But tell a story.
Of course, this implies an investment if some sort. Anything that is aimed at creating revenue does. But there are people to help you. And you don't necessarily need a big budget.
Just think of Robert Johnson who created his reputation by claiming that he sold his soul to the devil to become the best blues guitar player of his time.
For inspiration, have a look at these bands telling very different stories:
Or, even better, ask us about our new project, "Novella".
Think about why you're playing music. You want to move people, isn't that it? A good story does exactly that. So find out what your story is, find a medium to tell it in, if possible engage your fans, and tell it. Create the emotional identifier that has gone missing with the evolution of the music business.
The last step, the spreading of the story, is almost a piece of cake.
*Guys, honestly: a facebook page is not a website. It may serve your needs up to a point, but it lacks all the seriousness about everything you care about. Look, I know it's an easy way to connect with fans, and you should keep it by all means. But a website does something even more important for you: it shows your audience that you care, and therefore makes it easier for them to care, too. You don't need a $50K website with crazy effects and trinocular brain infusion. But you need a solid presentation and a starting point, a hub where you collect material and present it — a home for your marketing strategy, a fixpoint from which you can start communicating.
01 "Ghosts in the Machine"
by Maddy Myers / Medium
A short story about gaming, and ultimately about life — about playing, killing & being killed, cheating, love, ambitions, passion, oblivion.
02 "Do as Little as Possible"
What we actually talk about when we talk about "the mobile web" and how to work with it. An appeal for simplicity and elegance, beautifully put by Lyza Danger Gardner.
03 "Why Designers Need to Craft Words Not Pixels"
Jeffrey Zeldman, interviewed by William Channer for DRT
Jeffrey Zeldman might be the only person in the world who could rightfully name himself something like "web guru". In this delightful interview about writing, content, copy, frames, and naturally the web, he does what he does best: communicate.
An open source project that shows you what parallax is up to these days, which is an awful lot. Get blown away.
by Sigur Rós
Iceland is a place for stories, and Sigur Rós know how to tell them beautifully. For their song "Stormur", they made an ever-changing, interactive music video with instagram videos shot by their fans.
(Thanks, Jo Chapman, for pointing this out to us.)
06 Upload Preview jquery plugin
by Max Boll / Opoloo
Our very own Max Boll made a jQuery plugin to easily preview your uploads — live — before they're actually uploaded to the server. Open source, of course.
The 2nd issue of our Hook Series.
01 "The Bomb in the Garden"
Last week, we introduced the great Practical Typography book to you. The author, Matthew Butterick, gave a talk at TYPO Conference this year about what is wrong with the web, its standards, why we still cherish hideous design, and what we can do about it. He voices strong opinions and we'd love to hear yours.
If you read only one thing this weekend, make it this one.
by Tim Holman
If you've tried Medium, the thing you're likely to find most awesome about it is the text editor. Tim Holman has created a "minimal editor for the modern man". It's an open source project. Check out his other great projects, too. It's ridiculous what this guy has created.
03 "Do Things the Long, Hard, Stupid Way"
by Frank Chimero / Do Lectures
"Whenever we make things [...] there's a value in them, that lives completely outside of commerce."
The author of The Shape of Design gives an inspiring talk on how we make things and the side benefits of this process that are sometimes hard to see, but that make it valuable. He endorses a new culture of giving that is right down our alley.
04 "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better than You Normally Do"
Writing is the most efficient way to express your thoughts. It's as simple as that. In order to do that well, you have to practice. There's no way around it. Colin Nissan gives you some good advice on how to get there.
05 "Failure is an Option"
by Hannah Bloch / National Geographic
A whole cult of an advocation of failure has evolved, going hand in hand with a whole heap of pretensions and complacency. Hannah Bloch turns the dial back and reduces failure to something much more essential and existential.
06 "Dear People Who Like Neapolitan Ice Cream: You Like Horrible Things"
He picks a subject and leaves no stone unturned. This guy is terribly harsh in his judgement, but also dead funny.