12 Replies Latest reply on Sep 1, 2011 7:41 AM by Martin S...

    Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?

    Martin S... Level 1

      Hi, I'm using indesign cs5; I was wondering if there is a way to ensure an em dash doesn't appear on left side of the page in a book, without manually having to go through each paragraph and bump them either to the previous line or ahead on the same line.

        • 1. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
          FergyMac Level 3

          If the em dashes appear in the middle of a block of copy (and not the first character in a paragraph, you can find and replace "word space + em dash" with "non-breaking word space + em dash"

          • 2. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
            Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

            I was going to say no, but I think maybe it is doable withthe following GREP search:

             

            Find: .\s*~_ which means find any character followed by an em-dash with possibly some white space intervening. In the change formatting add No Break.

             

            I'm not certain this is a good idea though. What's the objection to having an em-dash start a line?

            • 3. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
              Martin S... Level 1

              This works great; it bumps the em dash back so it's on the right side of the line above. I wasn't sure whether to choose fixed width or not for non-breaking word space. Anyway, thanks Ferg!

              • 4. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                FergyMac Level 3

                Peter,

                 

                I've always been taught that typographically you treat an em dash like a colon so it should stay with the preceding text. Plus (a personal opinion), when you have a block of text it doesn't look good to have an em dash at the start of one of the secondary lines, it makes the copy look uneven. However, I don't have any objections to STARTING a paragraph with an em dash.

                • 5. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                  John Hawkinson Level 5

                  FergyMac:

                  I've always been taught that typographically you treat an em dash like a colon so it should stay with the preceding text.

                  Err...what?

                   

                  I don't think I have ever seen an asymmetric spacing style for emdashes. Generally stylebooks either call for spacing before and after, or no spacing, but not both.

                   

                  Chicago Style calls for them to be set closed, with no space, or perhaps a thin space (it's a bit tough to tell). AP style, on the other hand, because of the liklihood of thin columns, calls for spaces on both sides of emdashes, except at the start of a paragraph ("and sports agate sumaries").

                   

                  Do you have a reference?

                  • 6. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                    Martin S... Level 1

                    Hi John, thanks for the references. To give a bit of context: this book is a transcription of a lecture to be published as an ebook with playable audio embedded next to all paragraphs (about four paragraphs of 7-8 lines per page); because it is printed speech, we wanted to retain the rhythm of speech, so decided to put spaces on either side of em dashes. In publishing, this isn't totally unheard of. I found several oral history books in which an emdash with spaces was employed. The problem here is that the speaker frequently breaks mid-thought--which also has to be retained because its a philosophy lecture-- so what you end up with is 5-7 em dashes per page landing on the left side, which doesn't look very good, though I wouldn't say it looks bad; it's just a preference. Thanks again for the replies, these forums have really been a great help.

                    • 7. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                      FergyMac Level 3

                      John — I didn't mean the spacing should be asymmetrical, I just meant that the em dash should stay with what preceeds it. I type it as "space — em dash — space".

                       

                      As to references, I have none that I can find, other than memories of how I was taught when I started full time as a typesetter back in the '80s. You're right about there being differences between Chicago Style and AP style so I've had to make adjustments depending on where I'm working and what client I'm working on.


                      • 8. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                        Martin S... Level 1

                        FergyMac:

                        I've always been taught that typographically you treat an em dash like a colon so it should stay with the preceding text.

                         

                        This seems right to me; because a reader reads that way too; whatever punctuation comes up, it's a way of taking the reader from what preceded it to what's to come, or not; so the emdash, whether with or without spaces, ideally would stay with whatever preceded it, rather than breaking. Of course, this is a liberty to take only if one is not having to follow a style guide.

                        • 9. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                          Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

                          I think it depends on how the dash is being used. Commonly it also can take the place of parentheses or ellipsis, in which case I think it owould be more approriate to keep it with the thought or fragment to which it belongs.

                          • 10. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                            Martin S... Level 1

                            True Peter, I should have qualified that.  For example, the L.A. Times uses an em dash with spaces and it does break; so there's a good example.Also, Globe and mail uses an en dash with spaces, which also breaks.

                             

                            In literature it's hard to find examples because almost every book I looked at uses em dashes without spaces; in these cases however I have yet to find an em dash breaking onto the next line; it's always bumped to the end of the previous line or ahead. The book I just looked at was published by Knopf Canada. This seems like more of an aesthetic thing, given how far one's eyes have to travel across a page of a book to get to the next line, compared to news columns. What do you think?

                             

                            I still (naively) would prefer to see em or  en dashes not breaking, even in news columns; but i'm not a page layout  specialist so what do i know; there are probably good reasons why they  allow the dashes to break.

                            • 11. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                              John Hawkinson Level 5

                              Martin, sorry for taking your thread on a tangent.

                               

                              Fergymac:

                              John — I didn't mean the spacing should be asymmetrical, I just meant that the em dash should stay with what preceeds it. I type it as "space — em dash — space".

                              Oh, OK! Sorry I misinterpretted you. The idea of asymmetric spacing seemed so strange that a reference seemed like a good idea.

                               

                              Back to the main question.

                               

                              In addition to using the two nonbreaking spaces, you can also use any of InDesign's 10 other spaces (Hair space, sixth space, thin space, etc.) and set the Character (panel) > No Break attribute on them. You can also adjust the kerning between the emdash and it's surroundings be they a space or not-a-space, except this seems to be difficult to do in an automated fashion so you probably need to use tracking (same effect, mostly). And it will all depend on the font, some fonts have emdashes running extremely close to their surroundings, others not.

                              This seems like more of an aesthetic thing, given how far one's eyes have to travel across a page of a book to get to the next line, compared to news columns. What do you think?

                              It is definitely a very visual question! So there are (mostly) no wrong answers. I suppose it might also be a question to ask in a font-related forum or book designer's forum. Not about how to do it in InDesign, of course, but about how exactly it should look.

                               

                              I still (naively) would prefer to see em or  en dashes not breaking, even in news columns; but i'm not a page layout  specialist so what do i know; there are probably good reasons why they  allow the dashes to break.

                              Well, I was always taught that allowing them to break made for better justification. When there are things you just can't split up, you are much more likely to hit a a case where the justification for the paragraph ends up looking ugly. Though I'm also sure this "rule" dates from a time when paragraphs were justified more crudely. If not from the manual days, certainly it dates from prior to innovations like Adobe's Paragraph-level composer that looks at the whole paragraph when making line break decisions, rather than going line-by-line.

                              • 12. Re: Is it possible to automatically move em dashes away from left side of text box?
                                Martin S... Level 1

                                Thanks John, you make several helpful points and suggestions.

                                 

                                I will pose this kind of question in a design forum -- good idea.

                                 

                                Also, yes, perhaps the em dash never breaking will make some paragraphs look ugly, though if it's only ever pushed back to the previous line or forward until there's something behind it on the line, i don't suppose things will look too bad, even in a two or three line paragraph.

                                 

                                thanks for your time