Hyphens, Em and En Dashes

Hey designers,

I’m in the early stages of my font design and was wondering how does one create a Hpyhen, Em or En Dash? Obviously it varies from designer to designer, but I was wondering if there were techniques or particular rules to created the correct width of these characters.

Hope you can help

The hyphen is the shortest and thickest of the three, usually also the lowest, and should fit nicely between letters, because it is supposed to connect letters.

emdash and endash have the same height and thickness, and significantly longer than the hyphen, emdash clearly the longest. As a rule of thumb, you can make emdash about as wide as two zeros, because in some orthotypographies, it is its only function to replace 19,00 with 19,—.



Cool! Thank you so much for the quick reply :slight_smile:

That’s a great tip to make the emdash as wide as two zeros. By that logic, should the endash be half as a guide? Or is it again a designer’s choice?

Good to know, I haven’t heard about that before. The downside of that, if you want to do it consistently, there should be an em dash matching tabular old style zeros as well.

My personal approach is a bit more traditional: the em dash width equals the height of the body (commonly 1000 or 2048 units). The en dash would be half of the em width.

edit: here’s a nice resource if you are in need of some further guidelines: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/typography/develop/character-design-standards/punctuation#the-en-and-em-dash

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Don’t take it too seriously, it should just be approximate, and not look totally bad if the lines are aligned at the comma (or dot).

You mean the em size? That matches the above because traditionally, tabular figures were half an em wide.

Can you be more specific about which orthotypgraphies? I have looked for that information and have not been able to find it.

In most German typographic traditions (and I assume those of most other European languages), the emdash has no use, except for replacing tabular 00 after a comma. You ought to be able to find that in every other German-language book on typography. Not sure if there are English-language resources.

Thanks for that explanation. I am only familiar with English typography.

In my search for the information I did come across the Figure Dash, U+2012, which many if not most fonts do not include. I can see where that would be valuable so I intend to begin including it, zero sidebearings.

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Well… In Czech typesetting dash can be represented either by endash or by emdash. During the period of letterpress, emdash was far more frequent than endash. I randomly checked 10 books in my library from this era and 9 out of 10 books are using emdash!
In the early days of digital typography dashes were often replaced by hyphens (partly because of software limitations, partly because of the people who used computers were not trained professionals). Typographic experts (including me) called for better typography; we wrote books about proper typesetting, asked publishers to follow the old traditions etc. It was worth it. The majority of newspapers, magazines or books now use correct quotes or dashes. With one change: emdash. The standard form is now endash, nevertheless emdash is considered correct as well and some typographic purists prefer it.

Example: an Annual Book of Czechoslovak Printers, 1922. Typeface “Anglický medieval” (English Mediaeval).