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Typography Basics

Author : Judy Litt


Dashes

There are three types of dashes:

  1. Hyphens
  2. En dashes
  3. Em dahses

People who are not well schooled in typography may use hyphens anywhere a dash is called for, or may even use the three different dashes interchangeably. However, each dash has its own purpose.

Hyphen

  • Hyphens are only used within or between words.
  • Hyphens may be used to link compound words together. Example: in-house.
  • Hyphens are used break words between syllables at the end of a line of text; hence the word, hyphenation.
  • The hyphen is the shortest dash.

En Dash

  • The width of an en dash is half the point size of the type being used. So in a 10 point type, the en dash would be 5 points wide..
  • En dashes are used to indicate a range of values. 10–14 indicates the numbers 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14, for instance.
  • Some designers use an en dash instead of an em dash simply because they think it looks better.
  • You can type an en dash on a PC by using ALT + 0150 (hold down the ALT key and type in 0150 on the numeric keypad). You can type an en dash on a Mac by hitting Option + - (hold down the Option key while typing a hyphen).

Em Dash

  • The width of an em dash is the same as the point size of the type being used. So in a 10 point type, the em dash would be 10 points wide..
  • Em dashes can be used to set off a phrase — like this — instead of parentheses.
  • Em dashes can be used to show a sudden change in tone — like this.
  • Em dashes can be used to show a missing part of a word, as in f—k.
  • A well designed em dash should not touch any letters. If it does, you need to insert a thin space before and after it; do not put word spaces before and after an em dash.
  • You can type an em dash on a PC by using ALT + 0151 (hold down the ALT key and type in 0151 on the numeric keypad). You can type an em dash on a Mac by typing Shift + Option + -. (hold down the Shift and Option keys while typing a hyphen)

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