OK, now it's time to tackle the commonly abused dashes and hyphens. (This one's for you, Brad, baby.) This is an area of typesetting that people always seem to get wrong, presumably from some combination of never learning the rules and not being able to easily typeset the correct marks. I certainly don't recall ever learning about the correct use of dashes during any of my school days, except for a few basic principles about how to hyphenate words properly. But, like correct use of apostrophes and quotation marks, there's a method to the madness. When everything is used properly, there's just enough difference between the marks to offer adequate visual clues as to what's going on without too much distraction. that’s the point, kids: not to be super fussy, but to follow a system developed over time so you could know what was going on right away without thinking about it too much. Trouble is, that all breaks down when no one learns the system.
The apostrophe issue is a big aggravation, but the dash issue is really my pet peeve. It seems as if no one ever uses them correctly, software never sets them properly, and people barely even use them in a consistent wrong way, which makes it horrible to proofread and correct a manuscript.
When you're typing an e-mail or preparing a manuscript for someone else to e-mail, you're basically forced to use hyphens instead of the other dashes, which are not part of the most basic ASCII character set. Please, I beg you, follow these accepted rules of thumb:
- Type two hyphens with no space on either side when you need to use an em dash.
- Use a single hyphen with one space on either side when you need to use an en dash.
- Never use spaces around actual hyphens unless they come at the end of word that’s part of a broken compound (e.g., fourth- and fifth-grade students).
By the way, this is a great reference for setting all these characters properly for your web pages. Again, you will find very clear rules for grammatical usage in Words Into Type or your preferred style manual, which is good because I don't want to get into all of them.
Post a comment
Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)
(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)