em dash


If using em dash to separate date and time from performer or event, is it OK to use spaces before and after dash?


For example,


April 5, 8 p.m. -- performer's name

April 6, 3 p.m. -- performer's name

April16, 7 p.m. -- event title

asked Jul 15 '12 at 17:17 M.E. Quint New member

2 answers


No spaces before and after dash.


En Dash (–)

En Dash gets its name from its length. It is one ‘N’ long (En is a typographical unit that is almost as wide as 'N'). En Dash is used to express a range of values or a distance:

People of age 55–80 are more prone to hypertension.
Delhi–Sidney flight was late by three hours.


Em Dash (—)

Em Dash gets its name from the width of it, which is roughly one ‘M’ long or two ‘N’ long (Em is a typographical unit twice the length of en—and almost the length of capital 'M'). 


The tea—with cardamom and other spices—was delicious and fragrant.

Several friends were present—Saurabh, Arun, and Smija, among them.

link answered Jul 15 '12 at 18:08 sanjay Expert

I understand the usual use of paces with dashes.The way the em dash is used in the example given is a non-traditional use of it.Same rules apply?

M.E. QuintJul 15 '12 at 18:15

You can always use whatever you want to use and call it nontraditional. That doesn't mean it's right or according to rule, it just means that you chose to ignore the rule.

TolleyJul 15 '12 at 19:08

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As an Architect, I was forced--okay, I didn't exactly resist kicking and screaming--to take a number of undergraduate and graduate courses in the related design professions. My favorites were courses in graphic design and typography. So when I see a question like this, I just bounce up and down.


As a normal rule, you do not put spaces before or after en- and em-dashes. After fighting among themselves for many years, the graphic design / typographic design community finally (sort of) reached a concensus. The designers then spent the next generation beating the editors about the ears over the "rule".  We are now at a point where 80% of published matter holds to the no-space rule.


(The dirty little secret is designers frequently add a hairline space or adjust the kerning for certain glyphs paired with a dash. They just don't tell the editors they did it. For instance, in the Minion Pro typeface, the close parenthesis ) and em-dash collide in certain weights and sizes -- a hairline is needed to make it "look" right.)


But M. E. Quint is not talking about body text here. And the rules the designers fought for are intended for body text and not for display uses.  Quint wants to use the em-dash as an ornament, and as such it is free to float detached from the surround text.


Quint's proposed use is acceptable under the rules of graphic design. However, as an ornament, the em-dash is rather boring -- especially if the typeface is something like Helvetica. I would suggest looking for another, more interesting ornament instead. 

link comment answered Jul 15 '12 at 23:37 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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