Apple’s Bad Beta Decision on Em and En Dashes in iOS 11

Glenn Fleishman:

Terrible news. Apple is replacing the long-running convention of typing two hyphens to obtain an em dash or “long dash.” That is, if you type “--”, many places in the interface in which autocorrection is enabled or third-party software takes advantage of autocorrection, it’s turned into —. […]

Why is this terrible news? Some have argued with me on Twitter that it’s more logical: “-” for hyphen, “--” for the longer en dash, and “---” for the longest em dash. You type more hyphens to get a longer dash.

My rejoinder is twofold. First, most people rarely use an en dash, although I’d like to increase that number. Second, a billion people have learned that typing “--” leads to a long dash. I may be exaggerating the number, but given that Microsoft Word, Pages, and other desktop software performs this substitution silently, it’s a widespread convention being overturned.

I really hope this gets changed before iOS 11 ships.

Also, I’m not sure why dash conversion is part of “smart punctuation”. Converting simple hyphens to en- and em-dashes could be handled by iOS’s text substitutions. By default, for example, iOS has long had a substitution to change “(c)” to “©”. If en- and em-dashes were handled there, everyone could be happy because they could change it.

The only punctuation marks that needs to be “smart” are quotes. Right now in the iOS 11 betas, “smart” punctuation is all-or-nothing — to get smart quotes you have to accept smart dashes too.

Friday, 7 July 2017