Monday, October 5, 2015

Dashes endangered by the hyphen-minus

These subtle but prized typographic conventions [about the use of the en dash, em dash, quotation dash, and figure dash] find themselves under threat from the wretched "hyphen-minus," an interloper introduced to the dash's delicate habitat in the late nineteenth century. Too crowded to accommodate a full complement of dashes, the typewriter keyboard required a compromise; the jack-of-all-trades hyphen-minus was the result, and its privileged position at the fingertips of typists everywhere has led it to impersonating dashes and hyphens alike with alarming frequency. In print and online, the well-set dash is an endangered species.
Keith Houston, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2013), p. 146

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