Inserting dashes

Briefly explain what en and em dashes are.

To enter en and em dashes, you can use the Replace dashes option under Tools > AutoCorrect > Options. This option replaces two hyphens, under certain conditions, with the corresponding dash. In the following table, the A and B represent text consisting of letters A to z or digits 0 to 9.

Text that you type: Result
A – B (A, space, minus, space, B) A – B (A, space, en-dash, space, B)
A — B (A, space, minus, minus, space, B) A – B (A, space, en-dash, space, B)
A–B (A, minus, minus, B) A—B (A, em-dash, B)
A-B (A, minus, B) A-B (unchanged)
A -B (A, space, minus, B) A -B (unchanged)
A –B (A, space, minus, minus, B) A –B (A, space, en-dash, B)

You can also use the Insert > Special Characters dialog; select the U+2013 or U+2014 character, respectively.

A third method uses keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts vary depending on your operating system.

Tip: You can also record macros to insert en and em dashes and assign those macros to unused key combinations, for example Ctrl+Shift+N and Ctrl+Shift+M. For more information, see Chapter 17 (Customizing Writer) in the Writer Guide.


Hold down one of the Alt keys and type on the numeric keypad: 0150 for an en dash or 0151 for an em dash. The dash appears when you release the Alt key.

Tip: On a keyboard with no numeric keypad, use a Function (Fn) key combination to type the numbers. (The Fn key is usually to the right of the left-hand Ctrl key on the keyboard.) For example, on a US keyboard layout, the combination for an en dash should be Alt+Fn+mjim and for an em dash it should be Alt+Fn+mjij.


Hold down the Compose key and type two hyphens and a period for an en dash, or three hyphens for an em dash. The dash appears when you release the Compose key.

Tip: The key that operates as a Compose key varies with the Linux distribution. It is usually one of the Alt or Win keys, but may be another key, and should be user-selectable.

Mac OS X

Hold down the Option (Alt) key and type a hyphen for an en dash. For an em dash, the combination is Shift+Option+Hyphen.

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3 comments on “Inserting dashes
  1. William says:

    My question is: when I use an em-dash, Writer considers the word before it, the em-dash itself, and the word after it, as ALL ONE WORD, and therefore gives the red squiggly line underneath indicating a “misspelled” word. How do I correct this, so that Writer recognizes that there are two (correctly spelled) words here, separated by an em-dash?

  2. Avraham Gileadi says:

    In the old Windows XP I used, I created my own Em- and En-dashes macros using Ctrl-M and Ctrl-N–it was that simple.

    I’m not sure why something like that isn’t an integral part of Word 2010 by now. Isn’t it supposed to be “word processing” software?

    Is a person really obliged to go the the Internet to find out how to do this? The HELP buttons don’t appear to help at all, giving you endless screeds of data but skipping the simplest commands to implement such things.

    To me “less is more.” But the cleverness of the guys at Microsoft in making things more complex simply betrays their lack of smarts.

  3. Jean says:

    I haven’t used Microsoft Word in years, so I have no idea what works or doesn’t in that program.