What is an Em Dash (or Long Dash)?
An em dash or long dash, also known as, is a versatile punctuation mark used to divide a written body of work into sentences, clauses, etc.— it represents a comfortable pause in a sentence. Depending on the circumstances, an em dash can take the place of punctuation marks such as commas, colons, or parenthesis (when a clause or phrase is positioned into a sentence to act as a clarification or a reconsideration).
The Typography of an Em Dash
It is the longest dash (—) without any extra space before or after the symbol and not to be confused with the narrower en dash (–) or the hyphen symbol (-).
When to Use
When you decide to use an em dash instead of a punctuation mark, it must be noted that you can achieve a slightly different effect to the context of intent. Use the em dash with discretion by restricting the appearance to twice only to achieve a cohesive, structured sentence.
- Using the Formula: Alt 0151
(This formula is also the shortcut for Windows)
- Type a sentence and place the insertion cursor where you would need. The blinking insertion cursor would indicate the position.
- On either side of your keyboard’s spacebar, you will find the Alt keys situated.
- Select one Alt key and press down whilst using the keyboard’s numeric keypad to type the code: 0151.
- Release the Alt key, and the em dash would be appearing in the right position.
- However, should you have a Laptop without a numeric keypad, this might prove not easy unless you activate the on-screen keyboard and press the Fn+NmLk keystrokes as an alternative.
- Using the Copy and Paste Commands
- Symbol to copy: —
- Highlight the above symbol (—) with your insertion cursor, then press the Ctrl+C key. This will make a copy,
- locate the position where you want to insert the em dash, place the insertion cursor, and press Ctrl+V keys—allowing you to paste the symbol in the correct place.
- Using the Microsoft Word Insert Tab
- The insert tab can be located on the top ribbon of your opened Word document.
- Using the insertion cursor, place in the body of text where you would need an em dash inserted.
- Go to the Insert tab situated on the top ribbon, click to open a dropdown menu, to the far right, you will find an omega character Ω and the word Symbol next to it.
- Click on the Symbols tab, a dropdown menu will appear. At the bottom of that dialogue box, you need to select the More Symbols button.
- A vast library of symbols in a dialogue box will appear on the screen.
- There are two tabs on the top: Symbols and Special Characters—check that the Symbols tab is activated.
- Use the scrolling sidebar and scroll down about two-thirds to find a row of symbols that start with a hyphen, figure dash, en dash, em dash, and horizontal bar.
- You will know the names of the symbols when you highlight a symbol square the Unicode Name (just below the Recently Used Symbols bar) of the symbol will display the symbol name.
- Highlight the em dash box with your insertion cursor, then click on the Insert button bottom right.
- Alternatively, when you click on the Special Characters tab, you will find the em dash listed on the top.
- Using your insertion cursor, highlight the em dash description line, then click on the Insert button bottom right.
- Close all the dialog boxes and return to your text. The em dash will be in the right position.
- Using the AutoFormat Feature in Word
- The Autoformat feature will automatically format the associated styles of text as you type.
- Using the insertion cursor, click on the first tab: File in an opened Microsoft Word document.
- On the left navigation bar near the bottom, you will find the Options button.
- Another dialog window will open. Click on the Proofing option.
- Click on the AutoCorrect Options that will open another dialog box.
- There are two tabs: AutoFormat and Actions, and each of these tabs has subtabs under them.
- Under the Actions, the tab is the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Once you have opened this tab, check that the Hyphens (–) with a dash (—) has been checked.
- Select the OK tab.
- Proceed to close all the dialog boxes and return them to your Word document.
- Should you now type two hyphens (–), Word will automatically change this to an (—).
- Deleting an Em Dash
- Place your insertion cursor on the right side of the em dash and press the Backspace key.