If I’m citing a poem or quotation, what kind of dash precedes the author’s name?
For example:

This Business of Printing; which I am heartily tired of, and repent I e’er attempted.... 

—John Baskerville

Should this be an em dash, an en dash, or something else?
And should there be a space between the dash and the author’s name?

  • possible duplicate of When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen? Commented Feb 26, 2012 at 21:13
  • 1
    Also asked at TeX: What kind of dash is used before a quote attribution?
    – user38936
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 2:17
  • An excellent question! Might I comment that when using a horizontal ellipsis to denote excluded text, U+2026* (without a preceding non-breaking space in the case of a word cut off shortly). If for some reason the ‘…’ isn’t available, three full stops may be used (and depending on style guide: with or without spacing in between). Your quote should therefore be written as such: ‘This Business of Printing; which I am heartily tired of, and repent I e’er attempted …’ (This is unless—of course—this is how the author wrote it, though one can argue typographically for disregarding this.) *Alt+0133
    – Canned Man
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 11:10
  • Where are you "citing" it? Below a title? In a novel, on its own page? WHERE?
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 23:00
  • If such questions weren't matters of house style and personal taste, don't you think every college that still taught typography would recognise the same few choices and reasoning? Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 13:54

10 Answers 10


Given these choices:

U+2010 ‭ ‐  HYPHEN
U+2012 ‭ ‒  FIGURE DASH
U+2013 ‭ –  EN DASH
U+2014 ‭ —  EM DASH
U+2212 ‭ −  MINUS SIGN

The right answer is actually U+2015, whose alternate name is indeed “quotation dash”. Failing that, you are supposed to use U+2014. This is very common in Romance languages, BTW, using a quotation dash for speech quotes.

Note that even Bringhurst, who isn’t a fan of the long em dash, rightly says to use two of them for bibliographical entries. The recently released Unicode 6.1 has given us two more dashes to help with this:

  • 31
    In following wikipedia entry it has been explained that "quotation dash" is used instead of "quotation mark" before the quotation, but there is nothing about "quotation attribution": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Jul 4, 2012 at 19:43
  • 1
    It seems to me that an argument could be made for an en dash—you're connecting the quote to its author.
    – inxilpro
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 22:57
  • 5
    @tchrist The article you link to says that the quotation dash is used in place of quotation marks, not to attribute quotes. Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 9:04
  • 1
    On Wikipedia, the em dash is used for quote attribution, see Template:Blockquote.
    – user267172
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 21:19
  • 1
    @Boris It is, but I question that decision. They use U+2014 EM DASHand U+2009 THIN SPACE. The problem is these code points have infelicitous Unicode character properties, ones far better served by U+2015 HORIZONTAL BAR and U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE. That's because EM DASH has Line_Break=Break_Both and Sentence_Break=SContinue where HORIZONTAL BAR has Line_Break=Ambiguous and Sentence_Break=Other, while THIN SPACE has Word_Break=WSegSpace and Line_Break=Break_After where NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE has Word_Break=ExtendNumLet and Line_Break=Glue. See what I mean?
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 21:19

I assume the style to which you are adhering, if any, does not prescribe a specific type of dash, and therefore this is a matter of personal preference and aesthetics. I would definitely not use an en-dash; I reserve en-dashes strictly for (usually numerical) ranges. Therefore, I would prefer to use an em-dash. I personally never put spaces around em-dashes—e.g., when using them to enclose a parenthetical phrase—so I would suggest not using a space.

You might get some more answers by cross-posting this question to https://tex.stackexchange.com/ (a StackExchange site dedicated to typesetting).

Edit: I am dismayed to report that it appears as if StackExchange uses an en-dash in comment signatures. This is a grievous error! We should all file bug reports! ;-)

  • 1
    Nice answer. Personally I differ in my use of spaces, but if there isn't a style guide specifying otherwise that's just a matter of taste.
    – user1579
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 12:51
  • 2
    The spaces are a matter of taste. The reason why I don't use spaces is that many word processors and typesetting languages will often allow a line break between a word and a subsequent dash if there is a space in between, which I don't like. As long as one is consistent in the spacing throughout the document, though, it doesn't really matter.
    – ESultanik
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 14:07
  • 6
    You can use a NO-BREAK SPACE (U+00A0).
    – fumoboy007
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 5:21
  • +fumoboy007 A very good suggestion, as this would assumably eliminate problems that might occur with text-searches and text-mining.
    – Canned Man
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 11:14

Your example seems to refer to an epigraph, which is a short passage normally used at the start of a book or chapter. There is no "single" answer. It depends entirely on the style guide or in-house style manual. The Chicago Manual of Style (13.36) says that

An author may wish to include an epigraph—a quotation that is pertinent but not integral to the text—at the beginning of the book. . . . The source of an epigraph is usually given on a line following the quotation, sometimes preceded by a dash.

Although it does not specifically say that the "dash" used is an em dash, the common use of an en dash is for a number range or as a link between certain types of word pairs (at least in North America, if not the UK) which precludes it from being used in this context. (In the UK, it's more common for an en dash, with a space before and after, to be used instead of an em dash—but not, I think, in the specific case of an epigraph.)

Those textual examples presented by Chicago that use dashes all use em dashes—and there is no space between the dash and the epigraph's source attribution.

So, if a symbol is to be used, Chicago (at least implicitly) says it should be an em dash without a space. But other style guides might say something else—so, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer that can be given.


I have been searching for the same as the OP. More searching has revealed this in the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (I have not read the whole of it, so I might be misinterpreting it):

16.17. Signatures, preceded by an em dash, are sometimes run in with last line of text.

UPDATE (2019-10-01)

There appears to be a PDF render of the manual with visible examples: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016/pdf/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016.pdf


According to some place called the Ashford Writing Center (PDF):

Rule #5:

Use an em dash before the source of a quotation when the source is listed after the quotation.


Yes that's an em dash. You don't need a space.

Let a dash precede the reference (author, title of work, or both) following a direct quotation.


In contemporary usage, block quotes likes this almost always use em dash. Though, note here that if this is inside a passage and not a beginning of a page, you may have to use quotes to make the quotation stand out.

But, manuals of styles prefer mentioning the author name and the name of the poem or article first and then showing the original quote with indentation.

In his poem, John Baskerville writes:

   This Business of Printing; which I am heartily tired of, and repent I e’er attempted.... 

Some examples from Purdue


I think the answer to this question comes down to your interpretation of the word "cite." Are you writing an academic paper that requires a certain style (APA, MLA, etc..) or are you just typing up a quotation you really like to put up on the wall? If the latter, it should be fine the way you have it posted here. I don't think there is a standard for personal use, it is just a stylistic choice really. Just do it the way that looks best to you. Otherwise, if its for an academic paper, just "google" the citation style and "poem" and you will get a plethora of info on how to do that.


Please use a dash longer than the normal hyphen to distinguish it from the hyphen between word parts (like in "stand-up") and certainly add a space between dash and name for readability.

  • 1
    i'm new here - and just curious why somebody voted my answer down...
    – halloleo
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 3:20
  • 5
    I'm not the one who down-voted you, so I can't tell you why it happened, however, it may be because the question is asking which of the longer-than-the-normal-hyphen dashes should be used (e.g., en-dash vs. em-dash), not just whether they should be used.
    – ESultanik
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 12:42
  • thx ESultanik. makes (sort of) sense.
    – halloleo
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 2:49
  • 6
    All dashes are longer than a hyphen.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 20:45

I always give mine a ~ flourish, because I like flourishes.

The tilde (/ˈtɪldə/, /ˈtɪldi/; ˜ or ~ or "Squiggly" ) is a grapheme with several uses. The name of the character comes from Portuguese and Spanish, from the Latin titulus meaning "title" or "superscription", though the term "tilde" has evolved and now has a different meaning in linguistics. Some may refer to it as a "flourish".

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