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Note on dashes

Posted by Anders on November 18, 2003

In Reply to: Re: Correction! posted by Lotg on November 17, 2003

: : : : : : : : When you write cost-benefit analysis, do you use a hyphen or an n-dash (aka n-rule)? Admittedly, this is a question only for the madly pedantic, but hey, I fit that category, so please - knock yourselves out! I got the Oxford Style Manual for my birthday (as an addition to my Chicago Manual of Style), and in the OSM they render cost-benefit analysis with an n-dash. As I don't have the book with me here (sorry!), I cannot give you the reason for it, but whatever the reason given, it did not, while I was reading it, become clear to me why they prefer the n-dash. They have some other good examples, though, with dire semantic implications: The Arab-American [hyphen] community refers to people originating from the Middle East now living in the States, cf. Afro-American, etc. The Arab-American [n-dash] community, on the other hand, is people from the Arabic countries PLUS Americans considered as one group. This is the OSM's own very up-the-minute example. Based on this, I suppose one would talk about the Soviet-American [n-dash] cold war. On the other hand - and on a lighter note - we may say that Anna Kournikova is a Soviet-American [hyphen] babe. If there is a case to be made in favour of writing cost-benefit analysis with a hyphen, it would be that it's a (compound) word in it's own right. That is, it's very often used. It's not like you alter between it and, say, cost-profit analysis, and even if you did, I still don't see the reason for using the n-dash. I look forward to hearing your comments on this.
: : : : : : : : Best
: : : : : : : : Anders

: : : : : : : You've lost me. What is an "n-dash"?

: : : : : : Sorry 'bout that, ESC! Well, it all concerns the length of you dashes. Perhaps you've noticed, when writing in MS Word, or some such program, that a single hyphen, surrounded by space, and being between two words, may automatically become longer as you keep writing - strictly speaking, when pressing space or return. In this manner, a hyphen may turn into an n-dash (or so it does on my computer). The m-dash is twice as long as the n-dash. How you employ them depends on the style sheet you use. The HTML codes for n- and m-dash are: - and - respectively (the codes may be rendered as dashes when I post this, which will only make it clearer, so let's hope it happens).
: : : : : : Cheers
: : : : : : Anders

: : : : : Yeah, we're in luck! Only the hyphen cannot be distinguished from the n-dash. Anyway, let's post them again:
: : : : : hyphen: -
: : : : : n-dash: -
: : : : : m-dash: -
: : : : : Anders

: : : : Correction, it really does work!
: : : : Anders

: : : So m-dash and n-dash are mere artifacts of Microsoft Word and are therefore simply toys for geeks. I understand the artifact was to create a non-breaking space in a machine readable document and has therefore no standing whatever on the printed page.

: : Em dashes and en dashes preceded MS Word by a long, long time. They go back to hot-lead typesetting.

: : I'd use a hyphen in "cost-benefit analysis."

: I'd use my accountant!

This little note (cf. link) gives a brief explanation of the different dashes. However, it says the em rule is now less common than it used to be. I wonder if that's generally true? I really like it!
Anders