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As their names imply, an em dash should be 1 em wide and an en dash should be 1 en wide (1/2 em). But a lot of typefaces have the em dash not exactly 1 em wide and the en dash not exactly 1/2 wide. For example, these are the exact measurements I made of the EB Garamond typeface:

Dash Width (em)
en 0.55
em 0.95

EB Garamond is just an example, but there are many typefaces that do this. Doesn’t the name “em dash” imply that the dash should be 1 em wide. Similarly, doesn’t the name “en dash” imply that the dash should be 1 en wide? Why do some typeface designers choose to not follow this?

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  • Maybe optical corrections ?
    – Lucian
    May 18, 2023 at 6:23
  • Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?
    – Amarakon
    May 18, 2023 at 19:16
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    Basically what joojaa answered. A font designer is free to choose how wide an EM dash should be in his particular design, for spacing reasons, or just personal taste. I am not a font designer, but I manipulate dashes regularly via character settings, make them longer, shorter, etc ... until it looks good to me.
    – Lucian
    May 18, 2023 at 20:40

1 Answer 1

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Font designers are free to do whatever they want for whatever reason they want. They do not have to follow rules and conventions if they do not want to.

Why they would do so is a question you must ask individual font creators. But there could be differences in interpretation. For example, you might consider that the line should be a em wide while the font designer might consider that the line and spacing combined is a em wide, which might become changed once you change tracking and or have optical kerning on.

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