Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Inserting Different Dashes.

Inserting Different Dashes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 25, 2020)


Typographers use different dashes for different purposes. The only difference between the dashes is their width. For instance, you get one type of dash when you press on the minus key-it is a dash that is very narrow. A longer dash is called an en dash, because it is the same width as a lowercase n. An en-dash is typically used to denote ranges of numbers. Wider still is the em-dash, which is just as wide as a lowercase m. The em-dash is typically used in sentences, such as a dash between clauses. To insert an en-dash in your document, hold down the Alt key and type 0150 on the numeric keypad; an em-dash is produced by holding down the Alt key and typing 0151.

Another way to insert the dashes is to use the minus key on the numeric keypad. If you press Ctrl+- (remember, on the numeric keypad), then Word inserts an en-dash. The wider em-dash is inserted by using Ctrl+Alt+-.

If your keyboard doesn't have a numeric keypad, then you may find the following article helpful.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9319) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Inserting Different Dashes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is one more than 3?

2020-07-27 11:25:37


"The only difference between the dashes is their width."

Perhaps so for en and em dashes, and for some fonts. But not always for hyphens in all fonts - the thickness and position can vary. Just try typing the three dash types next to each other in several fonts and you'll see. In Times New Roman the hyphen is thicker and its top lines up with the others. In Arial, the hyphen's top is higher and the bottom is lower than the others. In Calibri the hyphen is set below the others.

2020-07-27 08:57:11

Sandy Benson

I've been learning a lot lately about hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes. For years I've misused the en dash, when what I needed was an em dash. If you type a space, two hyphens, and another space, Word converts the two hyphens to an en dash with a space on either side (which is pretty useless, technically). If you type two hyphens between words (no spaces), Word converts it to an em dash, properly positioned with no spaces surrounding it.

2020-07-27 03:45:14

Richard Price

@Erik: perhaps this depends on your regional settings in Windows, but for mine (English (UK)) the shortest dash (AKA hyphen) that you get if you use the minus key is converted by Word to an EN dash using the sequence you describe. If you type two hyphens and no spaces between words, then type a space after the second word, the hyphens get converted to an EM dash. Both behaviours can be disabled through File -> Options -> Proofing -> AutoCorrect Options -> AutoFormat As You Type and unchecking "Hyphens (--) with dash (—)".

2020-07-25 09:20:59

Erik Eilertsen

Em and En dashes.
If you are typing in word and want to separate text with an EM dash then finish the word BEFORE the dash then space, then dash, then space then next word and then space (like this: FOR NOW IS — THE ). As soon as you put that last SPACE in the EN dash that was the default now becomes an EM dash. If you CHOOSE to keep the dash as an EN dash then type the sentence and put your insertion point at the end of the word BEFORE the dash and type space then the dash. This will leave you with an EN dash.

This only works in WORD and does not work here on the site where all dashes are EN dashes UNLESS you use Alt0151 - which is what I did to create my example..

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