Dashes (also referred to as “dashes”) in book publishing terminology refer to either an em-dash or an en-dash. Dashes can often be found throughout books, magazines and newspapers that contain written material with dashes present; their purpose varies based on which written media they appear in.
The em-dash punctuation mark is an extended version of the dash punctuation mark and measures one letter width wide. It can be used to emphasize or interrupt thought processes or sentences – for instance when replacing parentheses, colons or commas when necessary; or simply indicate moments that make readers gasp, like “She couldn’t believe what she saw – her heart skipped a beat!”
An en-dash is much thinner and roughly equivalent in width to an “n,” used to indicate relationships or ranges among elements like dates, numbers or places – for instance “The event took place from October 5-12 2022” or “A New York-London flight is currently scheduled.”
Em-dashes and en-dashes play an essential role in improving readability of printed texts, particularly publications. While some style guides recommend inserting an em-dash with spaces on either side, others suggest leaving it unspaced (“–“); depending on your style guide preference, en-dashes may or may not be spaced appropriately.
Dashes can be strategically used in book and publishing layout design to add visual interest, efficiently organize content and effectively convey meaning.