A lot of my mail these days is from readers who have
upgraded and can’t find their favorite features anymore. After Alan upgraded to
Word 2007, he was unable to enter an em dash by typing two hyphens. The absence
of familiar toolbars complicated Alan’s situation; he couldn’t find the
AutoCorrect option that works this bit of magic. Fortunately, the feature’s
still around.

Before we look at methods for inserting dashes, let’s discuss what they
are and how you’ll use them. Typographically, an em dash is the width of the
font. For example, a 12-point font would produce a 12-point em dash. An en dash
is half the width of an em dash. You’ll (usually) use an en dash to denote a
range: The instructions for inserting an em dash in Word 2007 are on pages 26 –
27. An em dash denotes an
interruption—a change in direction—in a sentence. (Okay, that’s a bit
contrived, but it makes my point.) Now, let’s look at methods for entering both
dashes in Word.


The easiest way to enter either dash is to let Word do it
for you—that’s where the AutoCorrect feature can help. Enter two hyphen
characters between the two words you want to connect and Word will convert the
hyphens into an em dash. To insert an en dash, insert a space character before
and after the two hyphens. If this doesn’t work, the AutoCorrect option is
probably disabled. You can check its status as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and
    choose Options. In Word 2007, click the Office button and click Word
    Options. In Word 2003, choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu and
    skip to step 4.
  2. In the left pane, choose
  3. In the AutoCorrect Options
    section, click the AutoCorrect Options button.
  4. Click the AutoFormat As
    You Type tab.
  5. Check the Hyphens (–)
    with (—) option to enable it.
  6. Click OK twice.

This is a default level change; the option will remain
enabled until you uncheck it.

When you need two hyphens, you can temporarily override
AutoCorrect by pressing [Ctrl]+Z after
Word converts the two hyphens into a dash. Word will remove the dash, leaving
the two hyphens.

If you choose to leave this option disabled, use one of the
following methods to enter a dash:

  • Press [Ctrl]+[Alt]+- to
    enter an em dash. You must use the minus sign (-) on the numeric keypad, not the hyphen character on the alphanumeric
    keypad. To enter an en dash, press [Ctrl]+- on the numeric keypad.
  • Hold down the [Alt] key
    and type 0151 on the numeric keypad to enter an em dash. Make sure to
    press NumLocks first. For an en dash, press 0150.
  • Click the Insert tab,
    click Symbol in the Symbols group, and then click More Symbols. In Word
    2003, choose Symbol from the Insert menu. Then, click the Special
    Characters tab, highlight the em dash or en dash item, and click Insert.

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