Newness for a New Year

Friday, September 19, 2008

For Grammar Geeks Like Me

I finally read up on the difference between an en dash and an em dash. I will post what I learned, but I wonder if anyone knows the difference. If you cheat and look online, please admit it in your response. I won't think less of you.

9 comments:

Elizabeth and Dan said...

I admit I looked online only because I was just too curious. Very interesting. I realized I've been doing it totally wrong anyway. When I can't get an automatic em dash like in Word, I just put a space in between words and the one dash. Like - this. Now I know.

Rachael said...

this is something I make my students teach in our grammar presentations every semester!

jw said...

Actually, I don't consider the difference between an en-dash and an em-dash to be grammatical at all. It's typographical and, like indentions and line spacing, is about visual presentation rather than correctness. Typography wardens will insist that there is One Correct Way, but, well, they're just their own kind of nerds. I am the kind of nerd who knows the difference and is careful about which one I use (at least in my formal writing). But it ain't grammar. (I guess I'm also the kind of nerd who makes a distinction between typography, grammar, and usage. Yikes.)

One good follow-up question is whether you know the keyboard shortcut for typing either one. On a Mac, opt+hyphen makes an en-dash, and opt+shift+hyphen makes an em-dash. And for a hyphen you just type a hyphen.

If you're on a PC, well, I have no idea.

Katie Langston said...

I didn't even know there were such things as "em" and "en" dashes.

Breanne Grover said...

Jeff,

For the record, I didn't say it was grammatical. I said that grammar geeks would be interested in the difference, and yes, your lengthy comment--which was great and insightful--verifies that you are not only a grammar geek, but also a typography geek, which I will be sure to distinguish in the future. Perhaps the fact that we quibble over such exactness with language just means we really are geeks!

jw said...

In conjunction with our conversation thus far, I saw a post today at one of my favorite blogs:

Macro- versus microtypography / from a working library.

Thomas said...

Stimulating conversation, for sure.

Alisa said...

Wow, not the geeky conversation that I normally hear. But still one that eludes my understanding and my interest.

Rachel Mae said...

I'm notice the incorrect use of these everywhere! I love n-dashes when they're used correctly because it's so rare. If I were in charge of hiring, whether they used n-dashs in their date range might seriously affect my decision.