The other day I was explaining to a client how to update her new WordPress site. I showed her how to create a post and she turned to me and asked, “Now how do I make em-dashes?”
I hugged her.
Like all typography nuts, I firmly believe that the details matter. That proper use of em- and en-dashes, hanging punctuation, leading & kerning, and all that good stuff, make a page look polished and beautiful. That even those who have neither the eye nor the vocabulary for those details will respond more favorably to a well-designed page than a poorly-designed one.
What’s hard is explaining this to people who are not typography nuts. When I gently suggest that proper italics might look better than underlining for emphasis, when I point out that most fonts include special characters so that typing 1/2 or (c) may not be necessary, and yes, when I explain the difference between hyphens and em- and en-dashes, I am likely to be met with glazed expressions, if not eye-rolling or outright laughter, because there she goes again and who cares about punctuation anyway.
I don’t think I’m being particularly overbearing or pedantic when I talk about this with clients. I think it’s simply that the average Joe just does not realize how important these details are in creating an overall effect.