Jane Austen’s Dashes

(full image in post) Here is an infographic of a project I am still actively working on. I began this project in the spring of 2017 and hope to complete it this semester. I’m closely studying Jane Austen’s dashes in her unpublished works, and hope to show how Austen’s dash usage increased over her lifetime and ask, what does editing them out in her published works take away?

I began by hand-counting her dashes in the 2008 Cambridge Editions of Juvenilia and Later Manuscripts. To avoid error, each dash printed was slashed with pencil and a running tally was updated per page[1]. Each specific use of the dash, including dash-hybrids, was put into an Excel spreadsheet, and then interpreted and shown in graphs. For each work, I included the word count, total amount of dashes and dash ratio, and total number of dash-hybrids and dash-hybrid ratio, in my research and then organized that data in chronological order. To compare the dashes Austen used in works of all word counts, I calculated the average dash ratios by dividing the number of dashes used by the word count, then multiplying by 100 to get an easily comparable number[2]. These results were then compared to dash trends of the eighteenth century and to the amount of dashes in Austen’s published works.

[1] The only exception to this, is the final and original transcript of Persuasion, which is accessible online via the British Library.

[2] I estimated some of the word counts of the Juvenilia pieces because there is not an online source to get the exact count. Using the numbers from the pieces of which I knew the exact length, I found the average word count of a page in Juvenilia to be around 312 words, which I then multiplied by the page lengths of the unknown works to get a close estimation.


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