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OMG - I thot a hyphen and a dash were the same. Em dash? En dash? Oy. You're so far beyond me here, Patsi. Hehe - Michael

Yes, Michael, there is a difference. To quote the Chicago Manual of Style, "In typing, as opposed to typesetting, writers are advised... to use a single hyphen both for a hyphen and for an en dash, two hyphens for an em dash..." And they conclude by explaining that the "publisher will convert these to the appropriate forms."

In the case of blogs the writer is the publisher, and there is no means to convert to the appropriate form.

A hyphen is used to separate compound words and names, as well as to separate numbers.

An en dash is used to mean "up to and including" to separate numbers and less often words.

An em dash is often simply called the dash and is the most commonly used and most versatile. A pair of em dashes sets off an amplifying or explanatory element, and is similar to the use of commas, parentheses or a colon.

I could go on, but who cares? I shall continue to campaign for using a hyphen separated by spaces on each side, unless I get a call from the University of Chicago Grammar police...

I thought I was the only one wrestling with this!

To confuse matters even more, when I'm writing in MS Word, I've noticed that the application automatically formats dashes. However, it doesn't seem to do it consistently -- sometimes it converts a pair of em dashes to a single, long dash; sometimes it converts a short em dash to a longer dash and sometimes it turns into a pair of em dashes. Sometimes it deletes the spaces on either side of the dash, while other times it leaves the spaces intact. I'm sure there is some kind of batman logic at work there, but it seems pretty arbitrary to me!

While we're on the topic of proper form, I could easily go off on a rant about people who should be ticketed for excessive use of dot dot dot combined with lower case letters...but i won't...because dots are not the same as dashes, after all...and don't get me started on those little sideways smiley faces that people tack on to the end of sentences...

Sorry, got to *dash* off another blog post now! =)

And here I thought this topic would bore readers, and show my hidden obsessive twin! Thanks for the feedback, Kathy! I on the other hand...LOVE ellipses! But hate the double hyphen...there really should be an addendum to the Chicago Manual of Style about online punctuation...no? Didn't know that about MS Word - mine seems to be consistent with placing an en dash in place of a hyphen whenever I use a hyphen with one space each side. But the Manual says I should be using an em dash with no spaces...what's a girl to do?

I'm not sure how the TypePad editor works, but in Movable Type (from the same company), all you need to do is enter the HTML symbol of [ampersand]mdash[semi-colon] for the em dash. And of course, use the actual characters for the ampersand and semi-colon wtihout the brackets. It should appear correctly in the browser like this:
emdash:

When using em dash symbol, the style and grammar books recommend no space on either side.

Thanks, Ken, I didn't know that. I've only recently learned a few HTML codes and will incorporate that into my repertoire. Thanks for reading!

i didn't have this in mind till i read your post. nice point!

Thanks for the feedback, Kathy! I on the other hand...LOVE ellipses! But hate the double hyphen...there really should be an addendum to the Chicago Manual of Style about online punctuation...no? Didn't know that about MS Word - mine seems to be consistent with placing an en dash in place of a hyphen whenever I use a hyphen with one space each side.

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