Friday, January 25, 2008

En dashes and line breaks in InDesign

Whenever you have a range indicated in your text, such as "pages 130-176" or "Dec. 12-Jan 4", an en dash should be used instead of a hyphen. An en dash is a bit longer than a normal hyphen. En dashes are inserted in InDesign CS2 by choosing Type> Insert Special Character> En Dash, and in InDesign CS3 by choosing Type> Insert Special Character> Hyphens and Dashes> En Dash.

There is a difference between the way InDesign CS2 and CS3 break lines containing en dashes. In particular, if you have a range such as 130-176, CS2 will break the line after the en dash, if necessary, but CS3 will never break the line after the en dash. In other words, the "130-176" will always be kept together on the same line in CS3. For most usage, this is preferable behavior. But what if the project you are working on needs to allow line breaks after en dashes in InDesign CS3? Here is one workaround:

Insert a "discretionary line break" character after the En Dash by choosing Type> Insert Break Character> Discretionary Line Break. This will cause the line to break ONLY when it is necessary to do so, and will not cause any extra space to be added when the line doesn't break. The Discretionary Line Break appears as a vertical blue line when Type> Show Hidden Characters is selected.

To further automate this, you could assign a keyboard shortcut to the Discretionary Line Break to make it easy to enter, or use Edit > Find/Change to search for en dashes and replace them with en dashes followed by discretionary line breaks.


Anonymous said...

These characters can also be done on a mac by using key commands as follows...

For an en dash, type option - (hyphen)
For an em dash type option shift - (hyphen)

It's a lot faster than going up into the menu every time you need one of these characters.

Anonymous said...

This was very helpful! Thank you for not only the "how to" advice, but for the appropriate usage as well.

blu designs said...

Thanks so much for your tips.