Them Dashes (Or the Offical Em Dash Policy here on exif)

February 20, 2019 / Reading time: 1 minutes

Part of the trouble with setting the blog in monospaced type and letting the browser decide what is best (the CSS reads ‘font-family: “Courier New”, courier, monospace;’) is that there is no guarantee the em dashes will be distinct enough to not have them mistaken for their shorter, less fancy cousins. There is an advanced typography course I’m tutoring soon and I was rereading Bringhurst this time with intent. I realise it is odd and all kinds of unprofessional to have left it run this way—without distinction—for four years. There are spaces around the em dashes now (see last sentence) for making sense’s sake and I don’t recommend it used this way otherwise. (A little piece of javascript runs at the end of each page to replace all instances of the dash with a space-dash-space string. So the ‘actual’ text in its editable form stays the right way, for when the monospace phase passes.) Bringhurst recommends an en dash flanked by two spaces over the em dash without spaces around (which [the actual em] is what the Chicago Manual prefers). The Practical Typography website has this to say on the matter. There is a beautiful bit of prose on the absence of an ebook version of the site, elsewhere.

I shouldn’t have used the word “content” to describe what writers make. Writers make writing. So let’s call it that. Because “content” isn’t a neutral word. It’s anesthetizing jargon that encourages us to see the best (and worst) parts of the web as fungible commodities, like soybeans. Writers are not content farmers. Recognizing that fact is a prerequisite to improving the economics of writing.

— Matthew Butterick