# Very long dashes in Victorian-era book

I am trying to faithfully recreate the typographic style of a Victorian era book. One thing I've noticed is the extensive use of dashes: em-dashes are everywhere, for example.

Beyond the em dash however, I notice a set of even longer dashes. For example the dash used to indicate a pause in conversation due to a sudden interruption is about 1.5 times the length of an em dash. A similarly long dash is used to indicate the missing part of a name, e.g. "He traveled by horse to W-----".

How can I go about defining and working with dashes longer than an em dash. I can't seem to find any information on the web? I'm using XeLaTeX for my work.

• See also tex.stackexchange.com/q/447557 If your fonts support it, you can use Unicode’s omission dash. – Thérèse Sep 7 '18 at 19:23
• For those wondering why old books do that in the first place, it's discussed on English.SE. – Wildcard Sep 8 '18 at 1:31
• If your goal is to faithfully recreate the typography of the original book, wouldn't it be more accurate to use a series of dashes? I believe that's what was typically used at the time, as Victorian-era typesetters wouldn't have had access to sorts (i.e, special pieces of movable type) for abnormally long dashes either. – duskwuff -inactive- Sep 8 '18 at 22:54

You can superimpose two em-dashes:

\newcommand{\emmdash}{---\kern-0.5em---}


Full example:

\documentclass{article}

\newcommand{\emmdash}{---\kern-0.5em---}

\begin{document}

He traveled by horse to W\emmdash”

-- --- \emmdash

\end{document}


• At first you suggested something like \hbox to 1.5em{---\hss---}. Is there a significant difference between both methods? – Phelype Oleinik Sep 7 '18 at 19:24
• @PhelypeOleinik The current version respects possible kernings with characters before and after the dash. – egreg Sep 7 '18 at 19:25
• The overlaid portions appear somewhat darker. – AlexG Sep 7 '18 at 19:28
• @AlexG Artifact. I added a high resolution screenshot. – egreg Sep 7 '18 at 19:31

You can use a Latex "rule" to create a thin rectangle.

\documentclass{article}
\begin{document}
He travelled by horse to W\rule[0.5ex]{3em}{0.5pt}
\end{document}


the format is \rule[raise]{width-x}{thickness-y} (source)and this can of course be used in a \newcommand for convenience.

By using "ex" and "em" units, the rule should scale nicely with the font.