Should an em dash have spaces around it?

I always thought it shouldn't have spaces, but I recently read that in some cultures it is common to include spaces:

[...] the "space, en dash, space" sequence is the predominant style in German and French typography.

I have also heard of the use of a hair space on either side of the dash in some contexts:

[...] an em dash should always be set closed, meaning it should not be surrounded by spaces. But the practice in some parts of the Enlgish-speaking world [...] sets it open, separating it from its surrounding words by using spaces or hair spaces (U+200A) when it is being used parenthetically.

In fact, we can see this hair space on either side being desired outcome here.

Conversely, some say it's merely a matter of style/personal preference.

Is there a rule or tradition I should follow? If, in the context described above, set open is preferable, should I use a normal space (U+0020) or a hair space (U+200A)?

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Is it wrong to space en dashes and em dashes? (To summarise, no spaces were formerly usual but now spaces are increasingly common and you can do what you like.) Note that questions about German or French typography are off-topic here and should be asked on the SEs for the relevant languages.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 19 at 9:47
  • Thanks @StuartF, I didn't see that question when researching, but that does answer my question. There's even a comment there talking about hair spaces. P.S., I'm not particularly interested in German or French, just mentioned that to add context to my question. Commented Feb 19 at 11:11
  • 1
    This is a typographical style question. I have worked at publications that required spaces and others that did not use spaces. Nowadays, everybody uses hyphens instead of dashes, and without spaces, it creates a compound word, so having spaces seems best.
    – user8356
    Commented Feb 20 at 22:39


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