A Dash to the Dash


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To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we used two different typefaces: Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas and URLs. Sans serif type shows the names of files and the names of commands and instructions that users should type into the computer.


I know Word has an automatic way to add an em dash (—) while I’m typing, but I just can’t get it to work. What’s the trick?

Well, it’s not really a trick, but it does take some typing coordination. For example, take the sentence, Stan’s friend—George—is here. If you want the dash to appear between friend and George, press the hyphen key twice (the one to the left of the equal sign (=)) and then, without adding another space, type the next letter in the sentence. In other words, after you type the d, type two hyphens (without a space), and then type the G (also without a space). If you accidentally leave a space, it does no good to go back to eliminate it; that won’t produce the em dash. You must type the sequence in proper order without spaces.

Since I find the typing sequence awkward, I’ve taken a different tack: I’ve created a keyboard shortcut to the em dash.

Here’s how: Click on Insert, Symbol and go to the Font box and find the typeface you use. Then, in the Subset box, go to General Punctuation, highlight the em dash and click on Shortcut Key (see screenshot below).

The Shortcut Key I use is Ctrl+D (for dash). While you can use most any key combination, avoid the common ones—Ctrl+S for save, Ctrl+C for cut and Ctrl+V for paste. After you select your keys, click on Assign and Close (see screenshot below).

Now, whenever you want to insert an em dash, just press your Shortcut Keys.




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