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goodbye hyphen
Posted: 26 September 2007 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The big news these days is the sixth edition of the SOED has declared the demise of the hyphen.

But it is SOED’s apparent recording of the modern rejection of the hyphen that has attracted the most comment. The dictionary has knocked the hyphens out of 16,000 words, claiming this particular punctuation mark has fallen victim to the increasing popularity of the text message and the email.

SOED now says ‘fig-leaf’ is correctly spelt ‘fig leaf’ and ‘pot-belly’ is ‘pot belly’, while ‘pigeon-hole’ and ‘leap-frog’ have become one word each.

from The Times of India

In the “talk-back” (or is it “talk back” or “talkback") section on tonight’s ”As It Happens” on the Canadian Broadcasting system, a typographer/graphic designer called in to say that there are many dashes not all of which are hyphens, but I’ll have to listen to their podcast to get it all.  Something about m-dashes and n-dashes all of which having different purposes.

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Posted: 27 September 2007 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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An em dash is the long thing that separates parts of sentences (what’s usually called simply “dash"); an en dash is a shorter dash (the width of a letter n back in the days of hot type) that is used in ranges of dates and in certain other cases that only a copyeditor could love.  I hate it when people refer to hyphens as “dashes,” but I’ve learned to live with it.

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Posted: 27 September 2007 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I haven’t bothered to listen to the podcast, but from the description it sounds as if the graphic designer is confusing hyphens and dashes and the various graphical symbols (en and em dashes) used to represent them. They are different beasts.

The hyphen is used to link words and syllables. The dash is used to set off independent, but related, thoughts.

The hyphen is generally used to create compound words (e.g., pigeon-holed, pot-bellied pig, sister-in-law). It’s also used to link syllables that are split by a line break when set into type. It’s also used to express ranges (e.g., 1066-1776)

A dash separates independent thoughts—clauses that are related, but cannot quite stand alone. Dashes can also be used to elide letters in profane words (e.g., “SOED said f—k you to the hyphen.")

There are three typographic symbols used to represent these, the hyphen ( - ), the en dash ( – ), and the em dash ( — ). The difference is the length of the line. The names en and em come from the fact that the en dash is the width of the letter N and the em dash is the width of the letter M in most fonts.

Whether you use an en dash or an em dash is completely a matter of style. It’s about how you want the text to look on the page. Sometimes, house style will call for an en dash to be used for a hyphen.

[Edit: typo corrected in last para--dw]

[ Edited: 28 September 2007 05:56 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 27 September 2007 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I thought that the en dash was used in ranges of dates and numbers.

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Posted: 27 September 2007 07:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It is.  And I’m not sure what Dave means in his last paragraph; I presume by “an en dash or an en dash” he means “an em dash or an en dash,” but those two are never interchanged, and I don’t think en dashes are used for hyphens except in the case of ranges, where it would make more sense to say hyphens are used for en dashes when that is the case.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 06:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I corrected the typo in the last para of my last post. And I was wrong about ranges, which should take an en dash, not a hyphen.

I got a bit confused (as many do, I’m sure) because there is a difference between practice in typing and in typesetting. In typing, there is no distinction between a hyphen and an en dash. They both use the same character. (And an em dash consists of two hyphens.) But in typesetting and word processing, where you have typesetting features available including all the characters, you should make a distinction.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Another distinction between typing and typesetting is the two spaces after a period (at the end of a sentence) rule in typing.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yes, the double spacing after a sentence is a problem when working with any typeset document, including anything produced on a computer. This habit, which continues to be promoted by typing teachers, really screws up the layout of the page. It looks okay with fixed-width fonts like those on a typewriter, but anything more advanced (i.e., that uses variable-width fonts, automatic justification, kerning, etc.) the double spaces just look awful and make the page difficult to read.

So please, do copy editors a favor and stop putting double spaces at the end of your sentences.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Whether you use an en dash or an em dash is completely a matter of style.

Indeed - the Daily Telegraph in London, where I spend much of my time as a freelance sub-editor (copy-editor to leftpondians), goes for en dash dashes, the Times of London insists on em dashes (which to me look far too long, but I’m merely a humble footsoldier in the Murdochian army). As it happens, I find pairs of dashes are almost always better replaced by brackets, or even commas ...

The Times. incidentally, has had a thing about being economical with the hyphens for, to my knowledge, the past 20 or more years - I quote from the current edition of its style guide:

Hyphens: generally be sparing with hyphens and run together words where the sense suggests and where they look familiar and right; eg, blacklist, businessman, goldmine, knockout, intercontinental, motorcycle, takeover, and walkover. Unusual hyphenations will be listed separately in this Style Guide. However, a few guidelines can be specified:

Usually run together prefixes except where the last letter of the prefix is the same as the first letter of the word to which it attaches: prearrange, postwar, prewar, nonconformist; but pre-empt, co-ordinate, co-operate, re-establish.

Hyphenate generally in composites where the same two letters come together, eg, film-makers, but an exception should be made for double r in the middle: override, overrule (not over-ride etc), and note granddaughter and goddaughter.

Generally do not use dangling hyphens - say full and part-time employment etc; but this does not apply to prefixes - pre- or post-match drinks.
for hyphenation when qualifying adjectives. See adverbs.

Always use a hyphen rather than a slash (/) in dates etc - 1982-83 (not 1982/83)

Note the hyphen, rather than the dash, in the year range, incidentally - Rightpond usage is, to my knowledge, universally to use hyphens in ranges ...

Trivia - in the days of hot metal typesetting (which I can just remember), to avoid confusion between the similar sounding en and em, en spaces were referred to as “nut” and em spaces as “mutton”, so that a copy-setting instruction might be, for example, “single column, nut each side”, meaning the type should be set narrow enough that an en’s worth of white space would appear between type and column rules.

edited to comment on Dave’s last post
As I’ve said elsewhere, the Times‘s typesetting software won’t show more than one space in output copy, no matter how many spaces you put in on screen, just to counter the “typing school double spaces"problem - the newspaper also redesigned its 1 (figure one) and 0 (zero) to look more like lower-case l and capital O, thus stopping all those people who learnt to type on typewritens which didn’t have one and zero characters and you had to use the lower-case l and capital O instead from typing lOO for 100, which, if no one spots it, looks hideous on the printed page.

[ Edited: 28 September 2007 11:18 AM by Zythophile ]
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Posted: 28 September 2007 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I’m a copyeditor and I still put double spaces after periods in my own writing.  Can’t break myself of the habit.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Some software, e.g., Framemaker, does not allow for double spaces in a document unless overridden.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The company I work for, a software development company, has, as one of its style rules for official documents, the double space between sentences.  It is probably the least observed rule in the canon and by the time I get the document to proof there generally isn’t enough time to fix all the transgressions.  The document has to be out to the customer late yesterday evening.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Some software, e.g., Framemaker, does not allow for double spaces in a document unless overridden.

Officially, HTML does not support multiple spaces either. The second (or later) spaces should not be displayed in the browser. If you want to force multiple spaces, you should insert a non-breaking space character:

 

Not all browsers follow the spec in this regard, however, and some will display multiple spaces when they are in the code.

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Posted: 12 October 2007 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The typesetting rules I was taught when book and journal setting, were: unspaced en dash in ranges; en dash with a variable (spacebar) space either side to separate parts of sentences; em dash only used in pairs for second and subsequent books with the same authors in bibliographies. In my experience those are the most usual style. (BTW the double space after a full stop - which I was also taught when typing - is the bane of my life.)*

*(And those writers and editors who insist on breaking their lines by inserting lots of extraneous tabs. AND the ones who type all their headings and sub headings in upper case which I then have to retype - death’s just too good for ‘em! - Flynn wanders off, foaming at the mouth and considering a change of career.)

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Posted: 12 October 2007 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Are you sure you don’t mean “double em dash” when you say “em dash”?  In general, the rules you give would be very odd in the U.S., so I presume you’re in the U.K.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I am in the UK. The companies I typeset for required two em dashes closed up (so no space at all between - effectively, as you say, a double em dash) in a bibliography. I’m sure there are variations but this is the most usual in my experience.

As well as referring to it as a ‘mutton’ its fairly common here for an em space to be called a quad (because it’s square, the same width as the type height).

[ Edited: 13 October 2007 06:13 AM by flynn999 ]
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