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weather: cloudy
outside: 11°C
mood: paying attention
I learned something new about grammar that I was never taught in school. Don't get me started on the crap-ass education system(s) in North America.

umbo wrote (well, ranted at the end of a very long and incredibly hellish day =):

If you're needing a dash in the middle of the sentence--like here--you do *not* use a space and a hyphen and another space (like - this). You use a dash. A dash is longer than a hyphen, and it does not have spaces before or after it--just the words. When you type such things in Word, it automatically changes the two hyphens put together to a dash, but this doesn't translate properly in HTML--it'll turn into a single hyphen, which is wrong. So if you turn off the autoformatting and use the two hyphens together, that's the correct thing. That's what I was taught when I was taught typing. Go ahead, look in any printed book you have, and you'll see that I'm right. There are no spaces! You don't use hyphens, you use dashes! They're longer than hyphens! Hyphens are for when you split a word in two, either because it's a two-part word (see how I just did that?) or because you don't have enough room for the word on the line before returning to the next paragraph, which almost never happens in these days of word processing--it may happen when your professional manuscript goes to be typeset, but it's not gonna happen in a web-published fanfic.

It's an em dash, it's longer that the '-' and is usually represented in plain text as two dashes... or what we've come to call "a dash". It just looks like one in novels and other traditional media publications. In the world of ASCII and now, Unicode, the hyphen has been prevalent, presumably because Geeks don't see, care or need to know what the difference is. It makes no difference in the ability to get our ideas out. Just like all of us* who have to develop software for the printing and publishing industry think smart quotes — 66s and 99s — are useless and a pain in the ass** =}

It turns out that some manuals of style don't use spaces between the long dash and the surrounding words, but some do. Some say it's an American vs. British thing; some show that American manuals of style will pad it out with spaces as well. I think I'm going to pad it out with spaces. It's less crowded and easier to read that way (especially in italics, now that I'm looking at it). I'm Canadian, I'll do it my own way and you're lucky I didn't add a vowel to it. >KD

Incidentally, most geeks absolutely NEED to disable the hell out of AutoCorrect and AutoFormat in MS Word. When you're writing implementation docs and you paste in snippets of code into it, the last thing you want is MicroSchyte changing the decrement operator ("--") into an em dash which copies back to plain text as a single '-'. And guess what? Some co-op/intern will copy it verbatim into their code. It not only breaks something, but will manifest as some really weird cryptic error message or just nebulously strange software behaviour and it will take hours/days/weeks for the software team to de-fucking-bug.

*HHRRRAAAAAAGGGHHHH* Place your bets now for how many co-ops the bride has drop-kicked out the boardroom window for doing that.

* Okay, just me...

** In fact, George Bernard Shaw (very decidedly A Non-Geek™ and very well respected for his non-geekedness) refused to use apostrophes for contractions, calling them "uncouth bacilli". =)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2003 11:29 am (UTC)
OOhh, I didn't know that. I use ~ way too much, just becuase I tend to write casually like I talk. ~ is to dignify when I pause, I guess. I know a period a comma, or even a space, would proabbly serve the same purpose. I"m just going through a phase with those fun squiggly lines!
Apr. 27th, 2003 11:37 am (UTC)
Heehee =) I used to write the dash as a x-height tidle. But when I started my Bachelor's program in CS, the tilde is actually raised to the height of the ascender in some fonts. It's no longer in the middle, it's way up high, so I didn't use it as a dash anymore.

I use '~' to mean either "userhome" or "approximately".
Apr. 27th, 2003 01:38 pm (UTC)
Don't start me on m-dashes versus n-dashes. And can we rant about people who use two spaces after every period? Listen, people, we are not using monospaced typewriters any more! And people who insist on underlining titles because their high school English teachers drummed it into them - that was a convention that pre-dated the ability to set text in italics!

Ok, you got me started. But I think hyphen is a perfectly acceptable substitute for an m-dash.

Apr. 27th, 2003 01:43 pm (UTC)
We all need to learn to speak completely in Binary. That will take care of EVERYTHING. I swear. =)
Apr. 28th, 2003 08:10 am (UTC)
en and em dashes.
Don't start me on m-dashes versus n-dashes.

I was going to bring them up.

As far as I know, en dashes are for number ranges (1970–1979) and routes (Hamburg–Frankfurt–München), while em dashes are for pauses and the like—such as this one. (Then there's also the minus sign, which, I believe, is not necessarily the same width as any of (hyphen, en dash, em dash), though is probably closest to en dash.)

P.S. No points for knowing why they're called "en dash" and "em dash".
Apr. 28th, 2003 09:44 am (UTC)
Re: en and em dashes.
Thanks! =)

I'm so miffed that I didn't learn this in school and I would remember because I consistently aced Language Arts.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 28th, 2003 09:32 am (UTC)
Yeah, pne told me about '—' and '–' =)

What's infuriating is that en dashes and em dashes were not covered at all, at least not in my schools (Elementary or Secondary) and I consistently aced Language Arts, so I would remember.

I still put two spaces after the end of a sentence/statment... not that it matters anymore, HTML trims it for you. My smilies have also taken the place of a period at the end of a sentence sometimes =D
Apr. 28th, 2003 09:45 am (UTC)
Oh wait, pne didn't say anything about the HTML ampersand entities... my brain is doing funny things again... =P
Apr. 29th, 2003 03:56 am (UTC)
No! Not —!
— for an em dash is just Bad and Wrong.

It might work on broken systems (mostly Microsoft stuff), but HTML's document character set is Unicode—and Unicode does not have a printable character at position 151. (That's the code point for an em dash in some [most?] of Microsoft's proprietary code pages, but not a Unicode code point.)

If you want a numerical entity, use – and — for en dash and em dash (or – and —, which is slightly less well supported, or – and —, which is also not universally supported).

Here's what it looks like on your browser: &#8212 = "—"; — = "—"; — = "—".
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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