Smart Quote after Em Dash Faces Wrong Direction

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 17, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


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Charlotte is having trouble with the em dash and smart quotes. She is a novelist and uses the em dash in her writing. When she does, the quotes following it face the wrong way. She's been using Ctrl+Alt+- to make the em dash and then Alt+0148 to put in the correct closing quote. This is a pain, however. Charlotte wonders if there is some method, a macro perhaps, that she can use so she doesn't have to do these additional steps.

There are a few ways you could approach this problem. One way is to simply change how you type the sequence of an em dash and a closing quote. Instead, type an em dash, a period, and then the closing quote. Word will turn the closing quote the proper direction in this scenario and you, as a final step with your document, could replace all occurrences of the em dash followed by a period with just the em dash.

Another approach is to change how you type your dialog. Start by typing the opening quote immediately followed by the closing quote. Backspace one character so that the insertion point is between the quote marks, and then type what you want between the two. Adding the em dash at the end of the quote will leave the closing quote facing in the proper direction.

A third approach is to add a couple of shortcuts to the em dash and closing quote characters. Follow these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, click the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Customize (Word 2007) or Customize Ribbon (Word 2010 or a later version).
  3. Near the bottom of the dialog box click the Customize button. Word displays the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  5. In the Categories list, choose Common Symbols. (It should be near the very end of the list.)
  6. In the Common Symbols list, choose the Em Dash option. You should see, in the dialog box, the shortcut keys (Alt+Ctrl+Num -) currently assigned to the symbol.
  7. Click once in the Press New Shortcut Key box and press the shortcut you want to use (Alt+M is a good choice).
  8. Click the Assign button.
  9. In the Common Symbols list, scroll down and select the Double Closing Quote option. You should see, in the dialog box, the shortcut keys (Ctrl+',") currently assigned to the symbol.
  10. Click once in the Press New Shortcut Key box and press the shortcut you want to use (Alt+" is a good choice).
  11. Click the Assign button.
  12. Close both of the open dialog boxes.

With the new shortcut keys assigned, you can type the em-dash-closing-quote sequence by pressing Alt+M immediately followed by Alt+".

If you do want to go the macro approach, you can create one that does both characters in the sequence for you. The macro itself would be very short; a single line, as shown here:

Sub Endquote()
    Selection.TypeText Text:="—" & ChrW(8221)
End Sub

Assign the macro to a keyboard shortcut, then any time you use the shortcut the two-character sequence is inserted in your document.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the WordTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13363) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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 3 - 0?

2022-03-04 05:39:41

Shawn D Robertson

You can also simply add a space after the em dash, then type the closing quote, then backspace out the unnecessary space. Easy peasy.


2020-10-18 20:56:15

Austin

I'm also a novelist and sometimes have occasion to follow an em-dash with a close-quote, so I'd like to point out another somewhat related frustration. If this particular combination of characters happens to fall toward the end of a line, the close-quote will sometimes wrap to the next line and leave the em-dash hanging on the previous line -- not pretty. Unfortunately this can't be remedied by inserting a No-Width Non Break between the em-dash and the close-quote, as MS Word will simply ignore it (due to a peculiar rule it has about em-dashes). My solution has been to contain the em-dash and close-quote inside an equation field, since equations cannot be broken across lines. It looks like this: {eq —”} where the brackets, which represent the field, are generated by pressing Ctrl+F9, not by typing the bracket characters.


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