Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wikipedia, dashes, and me

Over the past few years, Wikipedians have developed a number of bots and semi-automated processes to fix common errors. I find that I feel like I've been chastised if I make an edit and then a bot immediately comes and cleans up after me; it's become a point of pride with me to try to prevent this.

My efforts to lower the workload of automated computer scripts have given me new habits. One is a compulsion on using hyphens and dashes in certain ways. For example:

I am receiving 36 Gray—at the high end of the recommended range of 32–36 Gy—of proton-beam radiation.
Note the hyphen in the compound adjective, the en dash in the number range, and the unspaced em dash in the parenthetical expression. A year ago, I would have just used a hyphen for everything and never thought twice about it. Now I've memorized the HTML codes for the dashes and it would drive me nuts to type something that used them "incorrectly".

Thanks, Wikipedia. I think.

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