Space before and after em-dashes in technical documents in English
Thread poster: Aleksei Afonin

Aleksei Afonin
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:16
English to Russian
+ ...
Mar 6, 2016

Dear native English speakers,

I am a little confused with these spaces. Could you help me, please?

I have seen a lot of examples of both putting and not putting spaces before and after em dashes. Could you tell me the exact rule for technical documents like manuals, reports, specifications, contracts? It seems that there are many rules which is very confusing.

I tried to find it on the Internet, and here’s what I found:

---------------------

http://www.thepunctuationguide.com/em-dash.html

The em dash is typically used without spaces on either side, and that is the style used in this guide. Most newspapers, however, set the em dash off with a single space on each side.
Most newspapers — and all that follow AP style — insert a space before and after the em dash.

-------------------
Grammar Girl: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/em-dash-space

Every style guide I checked, except the AP Stylebook, stated there should be no spaces between an em-dash and the adjacent words. That means it is a style choice. If you're writing for a newspaper, magazine, or website that uses Associated Press style, put in the spaces. Otherwise, leave them out.

-----------------
Wikipedia:

According to most American sources (such as The Chicago Manual of Style) and some British sources (such as The Oxford Guide to Style), an em dash should always be set closed, meaning it should not be surrounded by spaces. But the practice in some parts of the English-speaking world, including the style recommended by The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage for printed newspapers and the AP Stylebook, sets it open…

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OK, I can see from the above that I should NOT use spaces because technical documents do not belong to the AP style. But most of the documents I have ever seen do have spaces around em dashes.

So should we surround em dashes with spaces in technical documents or not?

Do you personally surround em dashes with spaces in your technical documents?


Thank you!


 

James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:16
Russian to English
+ ...
I no longer do Mar 7, 2016

Short answer—ask your client.

I used to follow the default in in Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which inserted spaces preceding and following the em dash. Then I began translating a series of books for publication, and I noticed that the editor deleted the preceding and following spaces. So I changed the default and intend on leaving it that way unless requested otherwise by a different client.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:16
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
If it really is an em-dash Mar 7, 2016

Aleksei Afonin wrote:
Do you personally surround em dashes with spaces in your technical documents?

I use spaces with en-dashes and hyphens but not em-dashes. To my eyes the space between the words looks too large if I do that.

Dan


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:46
English to Hindi
+ ...
It is just a style issue Mar 8, 2016

These are style issues, and can vary from publisher to publisher and reference to reference. Decide on a style for yourself and follow it.

Generally, em dashes don't have spaces at either end.


 

Aleksei Afonin
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:16
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Mar 8, 2016

Thank you for your replies!

I was just anxious not to make an error in English which is considered an error in Russian. It's easier in Russian because the rule about it is clear there: you always surround it with spaces, and it's an error without any doubt if you don't.

[Edited at 2016-03-08 09:40 GMT]


 


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