Dishin’ the dash


Our 12-year-old friend Jack continues to em-aze and en-thrall us with his attention to typographic detail and his appreciation of wordplay. Last month, he taught us the word favicon, strongly suggesting that a certain site (not ours) needed one. Last week, he was a bit em-barrassed when his mother described a hyphen as a dash. Here’s his voice message — and a sublimely timely link for en-lightenment.

“My mom was on the phone ordering from Pizza Guys, identified by her email address, and she said it was … ‘at heart dash 2 dash heart dot org.’ Now, I’m inclined to think that a dash is either an em dash or an en dash, an em dash being an em long and an en dash being half an em, or an en, long. My mom said the Pizza Guys [who, apparently, was a gal] said that the dash worked for her. I think this is ridiculous and that we should demand a written apology from my mother [audible in background, joking about punctuation]. Please call us back.”

As it happens, Allan Haley, director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging, had just posted — two days before Jack’s call — an article titled “The Loud Punctuation Mark.” A most entertaining post, in which Haley en-dorses designer discretion re: dashes. Here at Felt & Wire, we favor em dashes set off by spaces. Whatever your stylistic preference, we em-phasize the merit of being en-tirely consistent. [AK]

Our thanks to Ilene Strizver for the dashing graphic. You can sign up for Strizver’s free monthly enewsletter, All Things Typographic, a compendium of em-inently en-tertaining and informative typographic tidbits, at

Years ago, Alyson Kuhn heard a brilliant presenter from Adobe talk about the hyphenation penalty slider in InDesign. Because “hypenation penalty slider” is so, well, multisyllabic, the presenter nicknamed it Nigel. Love that name, love that slider.

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