Customized en dash in Calluna Sans

SilasSilas Posts: 19
edited June 2021 in Font Technology
The house style we're working in stipulates en dashes with spaces on either side rather than the longer em without spacing. It's uncommon in the US (and it's a US publisher) but it's their house style, and one of just a few minor deviations from Chicago Manual of Style. However, Calluna Sans's en dash seems so unusually short as to nearly be mistaken for a hyphen. My initial response is that it looks atrocious as stubby substitute for an em, with rivers of space on either side, comparatively. Perhaps Calluna's en was never intended for the styles common in Germany, the UK, etc., that don't favor an em for parenthetical thoughts. Would it be justified and legitimate to customize the en by lengthening it slightly, or is this typographic crime, and how would such a basic customization best be done? 


  • If the Adobe Font preview is to be believed, the hyphen and dashes in Calluna Sans are simple rectangles. In InDesign, you could create a character style that scales only the width, then use GREP (or search/replace) to apply the character style to all instances of the en dash.
    Isn’t it a bit dangerous if you type something by mistake within the custom created "dashes style" and gets horizontally scaled without you noticing it?
  • Potentially dangerous, sure, but Silas seems like a careful guy. :) The threat is minimized, perhaps, by the fact that you're applying the scaling to a single character that's protected on either side by unmodified spaces. Hopefully there would be few occasions to start typing (or insert a character) immediately preceding/following the dash.
  • Ideally you would modify the font. Sadly most EULAs prevent this, which I find unethical.
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 182
    Finding a dash of the desired proportions in another font entirely might be even easier.
  • From
    You may import characters from the font as graphical objects into a drawing program and modify such graphical objects. You may not modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, or create derivative works based on the licensed font itself without Foundry’s prior written consent.
    So modifying the font itself is prohibited by the license, but modifying graphical objects (such as stretching the en dash) is allowed. Or you could contact the foundry and ask for permission to make the desired modifications. I had good experiences in the past with type designers redrawing glyphs or adding alternatives when I reached out informing them that some particular glyphs were ill-suited for common typographic tasks.

    Also, are you sure that the en dash is too short? In my copy of Calluna Sans it is twice as long as a regular hyphen and half as long as an em dash:
    Alternativly, you could use the minus – which is a bit wider – as an en dash (they are on the same axis).
  • SilasSilas Posts: 19
    edited June 2021
    Exciting idea to actually get in touch with the Foundry and inquire about this. Upon comparing the dashes of Calluna Sans with those of Scala Sans, it seems that there's more spacing built into Calluna's. And unlike Calluna S., the minus sign in Scala Sans is shorter than an en dash. When, for example, Calluna Sans's en is placed between digits (without spaces added on either side of the en, of course) Calluna doesn't show this spacing, and I've even been inclined to add a hair or thin space in that case. However, as an en with spaces on either side in parenthetical usage, Calluna Sans offers up a ton of space. Dropping in a Scala Sans en dash as an alternative, to my eye, looks good. The minus sign is indeed longer in Calluna, but still has too much space on either side when in parentheticals. The Scala Sans en dash sits a hair lower horizontally - not sure if this is an issue Debating how to proceed. My initial assessment missed the fact that glyph seems to have a lot more spacing embedded when typing a space on either side.  
  • This difference in spacing arises from the fact that Calluna Sans does include whitespace on the left and right of the en dash glyph while Scala Sans does not:

    There is not a single convention: some designers add spacing to en/em dashes, some do not. You’ll find discussions about this issue here on TypeDrawers.

    Scala’s en dash is precisely 500 units wide, half the 1000 units per em, while Calluna’s en dash is slightly above half an em wide (522 units for 1000 UPM), but the dash itself is below half an em at 410 units. Again, some designers prefer the precise mathematical construction, some do not, see other posts on this forum.
  • SilasSilas Posts: 19
    Florian Pitcher, this confirms what I observed, in detail, and is terrifically illustrated. Thank you. 
  • Gary LongGary Long Posts: 6
    If the en dash is perfectly rectangular and level, and I want it longer than the one supplied, I just type two of them and then apply negative tracking (in Indesign) until I get the desired length.
  • In fact I like to implement "fusion kerning" for my em-dash. And sometimes for my tilde...

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