How to Do an Em Dash in Word: A Simple Guide for Microsoft Users

Learning how to do an em dash in Word can be a game-changer for your writing. It’s a handy punctuation mark that adds flair and clarity to your text. Here’s how you can master this simple yet powerful tool in just a few steps.

How to Do an Em Dash in Word

Creating an em dash in Word is straightforward once you know what to do. These steps will help you insert an em dash quickly and efficiently, making your writing more polished and professional.

Step 1: Open Your Word Document

First, open the Word document where you want to insert the em dash.
Make sure your cursor is at the spot where you want to add the em dash. This is crucial for ensuring the em dash appears in the correct location.

Step 2: Use the Keyboard Shortcut

Press "Ctrl" + "Alt" + "-" on the number pad.
Using this shortcut immediately inserts an em dash at the cursor’s location. Note that the minus sign on the number pad is essential for this to work.

Step 3: Alternative Method – Insert Symbol

Go to the "Insert" tab on the Word ribbon and click on "Symbol."
This method is handy if you don’t have a number pad or prefer using the toolbar for inserting symbols. It’s a bit more time-consuming but equally effective.

Step 4: Choose More Symbols

In the dropdown menu, select "More Symbols."
This action opens a new window with a vast array of symbols and special characters.

Step 5: Find the Em Dash

Scroll through the list or type "Em Dash" in the search bar to locate the symbol, then click "Insert."
Doing this will place the em dash exactly where your cursor is. This method ensures you can visually choose the right symbol.

After you complete these steps, you’ll see the em dash in your text, seamlessly connecting related thoughts or adding emphasis where needed.

Tips for Using an Em Dash in Word

  • An em dash is longer than an en dash and a hyphen, so choose the correct one for your needs.
  • Use em dashes sparingly to maintain the impact. Too many can clutter your text.
  • Em dashes can replace commas, parentheses, or colons for added emphasis.
  • Keep your audience in mind; while em dashes are versatile, they can be overused.
  • Check your document for consistency, ensuring all em dashes match in style and spacing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between an em dash and an en dash?

An em dash is longer and used for breaks in thought or emphasis, while an en dash is shorter and typically used for ranges of numbers or dates.

Can I use an em dash in formal writing?

Yes, em dashes can be used in formal writing, but use them sparingly to maintain clarity and professionalism.

Can I create an em dash on a Mac?

Yes, on a Mac, press "Option" + "Shift" + "-" to insert an em dash.

Why is my em dash not appearing correctly?

Ensure you are using the correct keyboard shortcut. If it’s still not working, check your Word settings or consult Word’s help guide.

Can I change the shortcut for an em dash?

Yes, you can customize keyboard shortcuts through Word’s settings under the "Customize Keyboard" options.


  1. Open Your Word Document
  2. Use the Keyboard Shortcut
  3. Alternative Method – Insert Symbol
  4. Choose More Symbols
  5. Find the Em Dash


Mastering how to do an em dash in Word is a small but significant skill that can enhance your writing. Whether you use the keyboard shortcut or the insert symbol method, knowing how to properly place an em dash adds a professional touch to your documents. Remember, while the em dash is versatile, it should be used thoughtfully to avoid cluttering your text.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to effortlessly incorporate em dashes into your writing. Don’t forget to experiment with its usage to find what works best for you. For more advanced tips and tricks, consider exploring Word’s extensive help resources or other writing guides. Happy writing!