Dashes in a Word document

Word 365
There are two types of dashes in Word documents: the en dash () and the em dash (). The em dash () is typically about as wide as a capital M. The en dash () is about as wide as a capital N. There are different rules and standards for how and when dashes may or may not have spaces around them.

En and em dashes are often mistakenly entered with two or three hyphens in a row (-- or ---). We strongly recommend avoiding using hyphens in Word; see below how to insert them to create your perfect document.

Using an em dash

The em dash marks a break between parts of a sentence. Usually, it is used when a comma is too weak, but a colon, semicolon, or parentheses pair is too strong. The em dash puts a nice pause in the text—and it is underused in professional writing.

For example: In North American usage—and also in old British usage—an em dash is never surrounded by spaces.

To insert the em dash into a document Word, use one of the following ways:

  • On the Insert tab, in the Symbols group, select the Symbol button, and then click More Symbols...:
    More Symbols in Word 2016

    In the Symbol dialog box, on the Special Characters tab, choose the Em Dash:

    Em Dash symbol in Symbols Word 2016

    After choosing the symbol, press the Insert button and close the Symbol dialog box.

  • Press Alt+Ctrl+Num-
  • Type 2014 and press Alt+X: —

Using an en dash

The en dash has two uses:

  • It indicates a range of values. For example, 2015–2020, pp. 33–37, Rooms A–C.
  • It denotes a connection or contrast between pairs of words — for example, New York–London flight, high–priority, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening.

To insert the en dash into a document Word, do one of the following:

  • On the Insert tab, in the Symbols group, select the Symbol button, and then click More Symbols...:
    More Symbols in Word 2016

    In the Symbol dialog box, on the Special Characters tab, choose the En Dash:

    En Dash symbol in Symbols Word 2016

    After choosing the symbol, press the Insert button and close the Symbol dialog box.

  • Press Ctrl+Num-
  • Type 2013 and press Alt+X: –

Note: Word has one option, using which two hyphens -- can be changed automatically to an en dash. You can turn it in or off:

   1.   On the File tab, click the Options button:

Word 2016 Options button

   2.   In the Word Options dialog box, on the Proofing tab, click the AutoCorrect Options... button:

AutoCorrect Options in Word 2016

   3.   In the AutoCorrect dialog box, on the AutoFormat As You Type tab, in the Replace as you type group, check or uncheck Hyphens (--) with dash (—) to turn on or off this option:

AutoCorrect Hyphens with dash in Word 2016

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask OfficeToolTips team.