Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the name for the long dashes that sometimes replace the inner letters of a name in older printed texts, and what is their purpose?

Example of long dashes

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

share|improve this question
Interesting that in the first line where they appear ("Dutches of Boujou D--s M--h") they seem to be set as narrow dashes, or even hyphens. – e100 Jan 23 '14 at 9:55
The Dash of Pretension, aka the Soupçon of Superciliousness. – Lauren Ipsum Jan 23 '14 at 10:48
Given that it is likely letterpressed, those very well could just be rules. They may not necessarily translate into a modern ASCII character. – DA01 Jan 23 '14 at 16:34
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As plainclothes has said, the dash is composed of several em-dashes. One might call it a long dash...

Dickinson is best known for writing brief poems, often untitled, consisting of short lines peppered with long dashes, which mark her out as a more modern voice among her contemporary 19th-century poets. [Daily Telegraph]

...or perhaps an anonymisation dash, which makes it clear it blanks out most of a name and gives more indication of its length than simply long.

The purpose is explained in the Wikipedia article linked to your image, Roman à clef: it's a crude anonymisation technique.

In the novel, the character called Horatio is identified with the actual Lord Peterborough; and Endymion is fairly obviously Lady Manchester, but it doesn't actually say that.

[This question is perhaps more suited to ELU.SE.]

share|improve this answer

Em dash. It takes up the full body width of the font.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.