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Old 12-18-2012, 11:29 PM   #1
GrannyGrump
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Emdash and Endash and the Bugaboo of Consistency

I'm hoping for some opinions. I have searched, but it was difficult to devise search parameters for this question.

Is it beyond the pale to use both endash and emdash in the same book?

I would like to use the spaced endash for the usual paranthetical phrases, as in:
His thoughts were confused – he had been drinking – and he did not answer.

But to me, endash does not look right when used for an interrupted word. For example, "I would like to kn–" looks odd to me, and "I would like to kn—" just looks better.

There is discussion about use of these dashes in many web articles and blogs, but none that I found discuss the possibility of using both within the same text. Is this permissable, or not?

I'm looking forward to some feedback, or links – if you have some to offer.

EDIT: I'm looking forward to some feedback – or links, if you have some to offer. (We'll just pretend I didn't mess up the placement of the dash, ok?)

Last edited by GrannyGrump; 12-19-2012 at 07:03 AM.
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Old 12-19-2012, 02:00 AM   #2
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For what it is worth I use both, in much the same way as you do, and I haven't been arrested or charged yet.

I really don't think that there is any body with the power or authority to give or withhold permission. I suggest that you do what you think is appropriate. If people really don't like it they'll let you know, and you can decide to change or not depending on whether their reasons make sense.

I like the way you do your ebooks.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:55 AM   #3
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What? You mean to say there are no Punctuation Police to come knocking at my door?
(If they come, I will disavow any knowledge of MobileRead!) (and aren't we due for some more Mission Impossible?)

I'm glad to learn I'm not alone in feeling this way about the Dashes.

And thank you for the compliment, though I'm still learning.
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:01 AM   #4
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Different meanings, so use different punctuation. It seems fine to me.
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:06 AM   #5
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pdurrant, Thank you for that. I've seen some almighty rants on some blogs about pitiful punctuation, and maybe got overly sensitized.
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Old 12-19-2012, 08:45 AM   #6
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I think I've seen all these styles:

1. em dash everywhere:
His thoughts were confused—he had been drinking—and he did not answer. I would like to kn—

2. double em dash at the end (making sure there's no gap between them):
His thoughts were confused—he had been drinking—and he did not answer. I would like to kn——

3. spaced en dashes in the middle, unspaced em dash at the end
His thoughts were confused – he had been drinking – and he did not answer. I would like to kn—

I like 1 or 2 better, but sometimes 3 is more practical (when the reader does not break lines at an em dash).
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Old 12-20-2012, 01:39 AM   #7
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I should have remembered this quotation yesterday:

'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.'

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Old 12-20-2012, 02:09 AM   #8
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Another question about the en/emdashes... does it matter if they're orphaned and fall onto the next line? I know I avoid it for ellipses, but it's never bothered me if an emdash should fall on the next line like so (but I could be very wrong about that since I'm still such a newb at this and perhaps it should be avoided too):

Yes: except for a brief period, the house had been untenanted for some time
—for fifteen years, in fact.
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ripplinger View Post
Another question about the en/emdashes... does it matter if they're orphaned and fall onto the next line? I know I avoid it for ellipses, but it's never bothered me if an emdash should fall on the next line like so (but I could be very wrong about that since I'm still such a newb at this and perhaps it should be avoided too):

Yes: except for a brief period, the house had been untenanted for some time
—for fifteen years, in fact.
I don't like an em-dash on the next line.

If we could rely on renderers, I would suggest that for
<word><space><en-dash><space<word>
you use
<word><no-break space U+00A0><en-dash><space><word>.

For
<word><em-dash><word>
you could use
<word><word joiner U+2060><em-dash><word>

But most renderers will do what they want anyway, and might display an unknown character symbol.
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Old 12-20-2012, 06:41 AM   #10
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@alex, is a hobgoblin second cousin to a bugaboo?

Jellby, Paul, thanks for the examples. This will give my persnickety something to chew on for a bit.
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Old 12-20-2012, 07:54 AM   #11
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The book I'm doing has no spaces before and after the em dashes so I want to keep it that way. But I can't find a way to prevent the orphans that works consistently. If I use & # 8288 ; (without the spaces, or it wouldn't display)⁠ before the em dash in Sigil for instance, Sigil's viewer displays what looks like a thick pipe character. Calibre's viewer shows a space. When loaded on my Sony 350 though, it looks perfect... no space, no odd character, and no orphan em dashes.

Is it safe to assume it will work on all ereaders correctly then as it does on the Sony or might it depend on the font used? Or is there a different code to use in Sigil so that it will display correctly no matter where viewed, cell phones, PC, Sigil, Calibre, etc?

You would think that software across all platforms could follow certain rules to avoid orphans of certain characters.
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Old 12-20-2012, 08:00 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ripplinger View Post
You would think that software across all platforms could follow certain rules to avoid orphans of certain characters.
There problem here is that different languages have different rules.

What you've done, using the Word Joiner character, is entirely correct. That Sigil and calibre don't display it correctly is a bug in their display.

Unfortunately, you can't tell what software people are going to use to read your book.

If it displays OK in Adobe Digital Editions, it will display OK in most ebook readers that read ePubs.

Whether the converted Kindle book will display nicely on Kindles is unknown to me.
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:31 AM   #13
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The epub looks perfect in Adobe Digital Editions. I'm not sure about the mobi converted file though.

In Kindle for PC, the mobi shows a square box like a typical missing character before each em dash. When I check it with Kindle Previewer though, it looks perfect in all 3 choices whether Paperwhite, Kindle or KindleDX.

I'm not sure I should risk the odd boxes or spacing issues for some people now, or if it's better just to let the orphans stay as they were.

Edit: The above results were converting as "old" mobi type, which I usually prefer to keep the file size down. I then converted it as "both" in the Calibre options and now in the Kindle Previewer, the Paperwhite view shows a space before each em dash. All else looks the same as in the "old" mobi format. I really didn't expect to see a difference there, but glad I tested it.

Last edited by Ripplinger; 12-20-2012 at 09:39 AM.
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Old 12-20-2012, 09:02 PM   #14
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Speaking as an editor and copyeditor, you do want to be consistent. The em dash and en dash have specific uses, and a professionally edited book would never conflate them. The em dash is used for any break in thought, so the two examples you gave would both take em dashes. You wouldn't use two em dashes at the end of a sentence—it's for situations such as to indicate missing l——rs in a word. A three-em dash is used for a missing ——— in a sentence or the same author as the previous citation in a bibliography.

The en dash is used between a range of numbers (e.g., 25–30) or months (a "May–December marriage") to clarify that it's not intended as a hyphenated term. It's also used where a prefix modifies both terms of a compound expression, and hyphenation would be misleading—for example, a "pre–World War II" building (you wouldn't hyphenate proper nouns: "pre-World-War-II") or a "New York–Hong Kong flight" (you wouldn't say "New-York-Hong-Kong.") (In newspapers, you often see a hyphen used for this purpose, because journalists on daily deadlines don't have time for such niceties.)

The authority for these questions is The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard reference in book publishing. Chapter 5 covers punctuation. They also have an online version, to which you can subscribe.

As far as an em dash breaking to the next line, that's not considered a problem; in fact, it's often inevitable. In books, em dashes are closed up to the text on either side. On the web, browsers see one long word, consisting of the word on either side and the dash in between, so dashes on the web are usually open, with a space between them and the surrounding words. An ebook will behave the same as a web page, so you may get some awkward breaks, but what are the chances that two words with an em dash between them will fall at the end of a line, especially since readers can change the type size? In my books, I made the decision to keep the dashes closed up, because it's more like a print book.
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:18 PM   #15
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Somewhere in my net reading I saw that the n-dash was used for numeric or date ranges, without spaces; the em-dash, without spaces, everywhere else.

OTOH, I can understand having more uses for the en-dash... I think you should be consistent within a work, though.
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