Em?

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Ben Gough-Cooper's picture
Joined: 5 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
Em?
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endashes and emdashes. They’re different from hyphens — thanks to my many lecturers for NEVER pointing this out — this I know. Now that I know, hyphens just don’t look right some places. Problem is I’m not entirely sure where to use them, so whats the protocall?

And while we’re at it, how do I access them in Quark (I can get the code for them from fontographer but don’t know how to specify this in Quark)?

David Earls's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 11:00am
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Get yourself a copy of the book “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst. It will tell you this, and a whole lot more besides, and make up for the ineptitude of your lecturers perfectly :-)

You dont mention if you are using a Mac or a PC. On a Mac, you do it thus:

- for a hyphen
Alt + — for an en dash
Alt + Shift + — for an em dash

On windows, you do:

- for a hyphen
Alt + 0150 for an en dash
Alt + 0151 for en em dash

Both these codes need to be typed on the numeric keypad, and not the number rows above the QWERTY keys.

Yves Peters's picture
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Joined: 7 Nov 2002 - 11:00am
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What’s really funny is that you can notice when some people have just discovered Em- and En-dashes on their keyboard: they suddenly use them for everything, even for hyphens. I saw it happen a couple of times with people I work with: they get so enthousiastic by this new insight that they wanna use nothing else no more.

Cheshire Dave's picture
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Joined: 29 Aug 2002 - 11:00am
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Not all em-dashes are created equally, though: at a former job our main typeface was Berthold Bodoni Antiqua, which had a really short em-dash, hardly any longer than the en-dash. It always looked like a mistake to me when we used the em-dash.

As for spacing around the em-dash, I don’t like crashing it into the letters around it. In Quark I typically use a kern of +30 between a letter and an em-dash — about a third of a space, so it’s not too close and not too far.

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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>when I did my training at MetaDesign You worked at Meta? Very cool. How was that experience? Meta was one of the companies I wanted to do my training, as I liked Spiekerman quite a lot. I landed a job at Dirk Rudolph (Spark), who was one of my absolute idols (and still is) and, riht up with Dave Mc Kean, one of the reasons I got into this field. …I still think it’s sad they booted Erik, always strange to see the founder getting fired, kinda Frankenstein-esque :-D. I think even in narrow columns — and they shouldn’t be less than, say, 45-50 characters, except in very short texts as in Lexica or so… — you should use the , using the hyphen is just simply wrong, kinda like using the inch-character for quotation marks.

Yves Peters's picture
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Joined: 7 Nov 2002 - 11:00am
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Hold it! I never said use the hyphen because that’s plain wrong: I meant using the En-dash instead of the Em-dash. I wanted to point out that in the American way of using the Em-dash for parenthetical statements you get in trouble in narrower column settings, but then you should use the En-dash, never the hyphen.

Yves Peters's picture
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Joined: 7 Nov 2002 - 11:00am
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Oh, and don’t be too impressed by me obtaining a training position at Meta: I got sent there by my then future employer FontShop Benelux. It kinda helped Erik was co-founder of the franchise. ;)

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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Ooops… Sorry. Yeah, the Em-Dash is quite space-consuming and not the most elegant solution. I only like it for the touch of antiquity it adds to some texts. Other than that I like the Tschicholdian rules I’m used to from German books a lot more…

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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Oh yeah, they both — at least for some years — even shared the same location. Whoa, if I had worked at Fontshop I’d have filled my pockets with every effing font they sell… I even would’ve’d worked for free then :-D.

Ben Gough-Cooper's picture
Joined: 5 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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Thanks to everybody on this one. Very helpful.

Kent Lew's picture
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Joined: 21 Apr 2002 - 11:00am
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>As for spacing around the em-dash, I don’t like crashing it into the letters around it. In Quark I typically use a kern of +30 between a letter and an em-dash — about a third of a space, so it’s not too close and not too far.

Cheshire, perhaps you’ve got a script to do all that manual kerning for you, but here’s an alternative approach that I use.

In Quark, I set all my em dashes with a “flexible” space on either side — shift-opt-space. Quark doesn’t have access to a thin space, per se; but you can set the value of the flexible space in the Document Preferences > Character tab. The specification is a percentage of the width of the normal space. I like to use 25%, which generally yields approximately a 16th em space.

You can do this with a global search-and-replace. I usually replace all em-dashes with the string \f—\f. (That should read backslash f emdash backslash f). The \f (backslash f) is Quark code for the flexible space. Then I follow up with a search for the [space][flexible space] combination and replace with just the flexible space, and the same for the reverse, to catch any double spaces fore and aft.

You can add the command key (command-shift-opt-space) to make the flexible space non-breaking, if you need to (to prevent a line from breaking before the dash, for instance), although you can only do this manually, as far as I’ve discovered.

If the em dash in a font is too long for your taste, but the en dash too short, you can create your own “three-quarter” em dash by horizontally scaling the em dash 80% or so. In this case, the scaling does no damage to the integrity of the character shape. You can define a character style specifically for applying this to your em dashes and do a search-and-replace, unchecking the Ignore Attributes box and applying your character style.

— K.

Cheshire Dave's picture
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Joined: 29 Aug 2002 - 11:00am
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Thanks, Kent. Your solution to the spacing issue is good. My script, such as it was, went like this: Do a search for an em-dash, place cursor before, go thwack-thwack-thwack on the keyboard (that’s shift-command-] for you Mac folks), move the cursor to the other side, go thwack-thwack-thwack, then repeat as necessary. It was always the last thing I did on a document, so it was kind of soothing, like cleaning one’s desk after a job is done.

As for horizontally scaling the offending em-dash, you just blew my mind. It never occurred to me. I wish you were in my life six years ago.

Kent Lew's picture
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Joined: 21 Apr 2002 - 11:00am
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On a Mac, Alt is also often referred to as Option.

The proper use of hyphen, en, and em dashes is also frequently covered by editorial style guides, since the various dashes serve different semantic purposes. Chicago Manual of Style is a good reference, in addition to Bringhurst.

In short:

Hyphens are used for hyphenating words, either because they are spelled as hyphenated compounds or because of end-of-line hyphenation.

En dashes are used for ranges of numerals. There are also special circumstances for using an en dash in certain hyphenated compounds, but editorial style guides differ on this.

Em dashes are used for parenthetical statements. These are the dashes that are often represented as double hyphens in text — such as I’m doing here — and usually indicate a change in voice or a subordinate clause with a relatively looser relationship to the main statement. Style guides (editorial and typographic) differ on whether em dashes should be set on either side with full spaces, thin spaces, or set closed.

HTH

— K.


Stephen Coles's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
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I wish [Kent] were in my life six years ago

We all do, Chesh, we all do.

Colin Hartnett's picture
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Joined: 28 Jan 2003 - 11:00am
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Britain’s quotation system makes a lot more sense, too. Single quotes on the outside, double quotes for nested quotes; punctuation stays outside the quote mark unless it belongs to the quote. (Or at least that’s my idealized version of it.)

That does it: I’m moving.

Stephen Coles's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
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Yes! Hooray for properly placed quoting. What is with
America’s wacked system, anyway? Was this part of
the “dissasociating ourselves from the old empire”
thing (as were all the spelling changes)?

Joe Pemberton's picture
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Joined: 8 Apr 2002 - 3:36pm
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Speaking of Spiekermann, Herr Spiekermann’s ‘Typo Tips
are still up at the FontShop site. Valuable info.

I’ve noticed that in forums like this some people creat em
dashes out of two hyphens with no spaces—like this.
Others create em dashes out of a single hyphen with spaces
on each side — like this. I prefer sans spaces, but I’m
American, so whatevah.

Oh, and Stephen, the Metric system is better too but you
don’t see us adopting that anytime soon do you? Just don’t
ask me to adopt the Euro.

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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>En dashes are used for ranges of numerals. As they are very long — a full quad, as opposed to the half quad of the eMDash — that isn’t actually done very much any more, people mostly use the eM. eNDashes are still sometimes used in the USA as , as shown above with eMDashes, but if used in that way mostly without the space before and after the dash. I think-she said, still scratching her head-that we have reached an end.

Rodolfo Capeto's picture
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Joined: 5 Aug 2002 - 1:27pm
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En dashes are used for ranges of numerals. As they are very long — a full quad, as opposed to the half quad of the eMDash

It’s the opposite, no?
Em = 1 quad
En = 1/2 quad.

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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Oh sorry, I’m so used to the German and  :-D. And at least on my ID-Keyboard-Layout Ctrl+Alt+M is the smaller 1/2 fixed space, while N is smaller. It is always kinda hard to talk about this stuff in English, as I have no dictionary that translates these kind of termini. Thanks for clearing it up…

Yves Peters's picture
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Joined: 7 Nov 2002 - 11:00am
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Last thing I heard, Em-dashes are typically used for parenthetical statements in the States, without spaces before or after, whereas in Europe we tend to use En-dashes with thin spaces before and after.

I’ll look for some reference material to back that up. Don’t wanna get slaughtered by the more erudite members of this fine community. ;)

HD Schellnack's picture
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003 - 9:08am
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Right-o, acording to Forssman and de Jongs Detailtypographie. The spaces before and after shouldn’t be TOO thin, however, about a half or a quarter of the normal space.

Stephen Coles's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
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Europe’s system looks much better, and makes more sense.

Yves Peters's picture
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Joined: 7 Nov 2002 - 11:00am
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THX HD for saving me the trouble. :-) BTW I believe the person who originally explained it to me was German as well, when I did my training at MetaDesign Berlin. It might even have been Herr Spiekermann himself.

The problem I have with the American way of using Em-dashes for parenthetical statements is that it creates humongous gaps in your lines of text. It can look beautiful in book settings or in two column magazine lay-out, even quite elegant, but you simply can’t get away with it when your columns of text get narrower. It also gets a bit awkward when the dash almost literally sticks to the neighbouring words.