Re: Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods

Subject: Re: Re. Two spaces vs. one after periods
From: Gwen Barnes <gwen -dot- barnes -at- MUSTANG -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 16:08:45 GMT

-> First, let me say that I always enjoy the insightful comments about
-> typography from Gwen. I have a better than average grasp of the

Thanks for the kind words.

-> following paragraph, Gwen refers to editing the width or kerning
-> tables for your fonts. I know this can be done on a case by case
-> basis in programs like PageMaker, but how do you do this in the font
-> tables? I can see where this would really be useful.

One thing I neglected to caution our readers about, in regards to adding
space to the font width tables for periods, is that you won't want to
use this modified font for numeric tables containing decimals, unless
you either create a separate character for a decimal (normally-spaced
period), or a backup copy of your font.

I use a program called Fontlab to edit and modify Truetype and Type 1
fonts, and while this is definitely a professional-level tool that will
allow you to design and create complete typeface families, it has some
beginner-level editing capability for modifying character widths and

I remember it not being a particularly expensive program, originally
developed by a bunch of guys in St. Petersburg, Russia (!), and you can
contact the US vendor Pyrus North America, Box 465, Millersville, MD
21108. It's really an amazing program -- you can scan in an alphabet of
your own creation -- your own handwriting even -- and create a
fully-hinted Truetype or Adobe Type 1 font. Or create your own symbols
and add them to one of your regular fonts (a kittycat pawprint as an
end-of-story thing for our newsletter, for instance). It has a full
range of vector drawing tools, and subroutines for creating serifs and
applying them to all your fonts. Amazing!

-> Also, I am familiar with some of the uses of the en dash (in number
-> ranges, for example,) but would appreciate a more comprehensive
-> explanation of when to use the en dash as opposed to the hyphen.
-> Somehow, this is an area that I seem to find difficult to keep
-> straight.

A hyphen divides words at the end of a line, or creates compound words.
It's the narrowest of the dashes, about equivalent to a thin space, and
is really too short to be visible for other purposes. To divide thoughts
within sentences, use an em dash, never two hyphens. And certainly
never a single hyphen. It will vanish in the forest of type, and
subtract meaning from what you're trying to say.

Now, on to em and en dashes.

An en dash is longer than a hyphen, and makes a good "minus sign" if you
can't get at the real one easily. Look under "special characters" or
"symbols" in your WP or DTP program to find them.

An em dash is wider still, and corresponds to the width of the "em", a
unit of type measurement that often <g> corresponds with the width of
the uppercase M, since it is often <g> the widest character in a font.
Actually, it's supposed to be a square of the slug size, for instance a
12 point em will be 12 points wide. Ems are not the same as Picas -- an
Em space is dependent on the slug size of the font, while a Pica is a
fixed measurement, always 12 points wide. Real typesetting programs let
you add a *unit* of space at a time, that being (usually) 1/54th of an
em, a standard for digital type.

We're extremely lucky that the designers of Postscript and Truetype
fonts were thoughtful enough to include these standard typographical
characters -- they missed plenty of others alltogether, and relegated
only a few of the vital ones to the "symbol" and "dingbat" fonts. I have
yet to find an easily-accessible, properly-sized ballot box or bullet
(they come in em and en sizes just like dashes, and not just the
"flyshit" default), for instance. The ones on the Dingbat fonts are too
stylized, and blend poorly with regular text fonts.

I won't paraphrase the entire discussion of dashes from my array of
style books (Chicago Manual of Style is as good a starting point as
any), since their advice is reasonable and to the point. Okay, I'm a
nerd, and I like reading style books. Everyone should ...

Gwen gwen -dot- barnes -at- mustang -dot- com
MSI * Connecting the world 805-873-2500

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