[bksvol-discuss] The Em-Dash in print

  • From: Grandma Cindy <popularplace@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:39:28 -0700 (PDT)

Sue et all.

Yes, in print the em dash is twice as long as hyphen
or plain dash. It comes from the days when print was
physically set by printers, i.e., people, into big
printers. I don't know if you've ever had sight, so I
don't know if you've ever seen the difference between
the letter em and the letter en--the former has two
sort of loops or humps and the latter has one. That's
why an en dash is shorter than an em dash.

I once had an opportunity to work with a  real
printer, meaning the machine, and to set type. When I
was in library school there was still on in the
basement. I set type for my Christmas cards on
it--great fun but time-consuming.

Anyway, in the olden days--and perhaps those of you
who had sight at one time have seen pictures of
old-time printers and their machines--there were trays
of letters and punctuation marks of various fonts. The
typesetter, a person, would select the letters from
the trays, and an em dash or a hyphen as needed, and
put them onto a sort of hollow wide horizontal stick
called a composing stick (I looked that up). I can't
remember know how that was carried or put onto the
printing press--maybe the sticks themselves were taken
off the carrying handle and set into the press. Then,
as I recall, once all the type was set into the press
it was inked and paper was put onto rollers and rolled
over the type to create newspapers, etc.

Unfortunately, it was many years ago that I made my
cards, and the illustrations of Ben Franklin and other
printers in action don't show much action. I've done a
little googling to see if I could get a better
description but so far haven't been able to and don't
want to spent any more time looking.

Anyway, all that's probably more than any of you
wanted to know. I probably should have stopped after
my first sentence in answer to Sue's question. sigh


--- siss52 <siss52@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Hi All,
> Evan, I am beginning to feel ambivalence about this
> cottin pickin' em-dash 
> as well.  For me it doesn't matter.  I mean, I am a
> Braille reader and this 
> dash seems to translate into one dash or hyphen on
> bookshare.org.  So I have 
> a question.  <big sigh>  In print, does the em-dash
> look a lot different 
> from a double dash or two hyphens?  On my Braille
> display when I validate a 
> file in Word, it looks like a capital hyphen.  My
> display is an 8-dot cell, 
> and that is how it looks.  So I am wondering how it
> looks in print.  Also, 
> what does a Daisy speech file say if someone wants
> to know?
> Sorry to bring this up, but it is my concern for
> students that set me off. 
> <lol>  A student should know the difference in the
> single hyphen that is 
> used for compound words and a dash which, in Braille
> Grade II, is a double 
> hyphen.  I usually validate fiction, but still, I am
> concerned.
> Sue S.

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