The em dash (which looks like this: —) is a useful character but isn’t something you’ll find a dedicated key for on your keyboard. As a matter of fact, considering how often it is used, it’s surprising how tricky it can be to type an em dash. The instructions aren’t the same across platforms or even apps, so it can be tough to type an em dash when you need it. This is why we’ve gathered all the ways to type an em dash across various platforms in one handy article.
Don’t forget: all these tips are handy for accessing other characters, like the en dash and various other characters.
How to Type an Em Dash on Windows
Windows has a few ways to type an em dash. The best-known method is to use what is known as an alt code. Hold down the Alt key and type 0 + 1 + 5 + 1, then release the Alt key.
While this is the fastest method to type an em dash, not everyone wants to remember a combination of numbers to type a character. Fortunately, Windows has an emoji keyboard to make things easier.
To access the emoji keyboard, press the Win + . (period) key combination. Now that the emoji keyboard is visible, select the symbols menu at the top, represented by the omega icon.
Near the bottom of the emoji keyboard, you’ll see the em dash and en dash characters next to each other. The em dash is the longer of the two.
How to Type an Em Dash on a Mac
It’s not immediately apparent, but typing an em dash on macOS is more straightforward and simple than on other platforms. You only need a single keyboard shortcut.
Simply press Option + Shift + - (also known as minus) to create an em dash.
In most Mac apps, you can also go to “Edit -> Emoji & Symbols” to pull up the Character Map. In the search box, search for “em dash” and click the first result to insert an em dash at your cursor.
How to Type an Em Dash on Linux
Because there are so many Linux distributions, it can be tough to figure out how to type an em dash on your preferred distribution. We’re mainly focusing on Ubuntu because it’s so widely used, but these instructions should come in handy with other distributions as well.
One fairly universal option is similar to alt codes on Windows. Press Ctrl + Shift + u, let go, then type 2 + 0 + 1 + 4 and press Space. This is the Unicode short code for the em dash.
Another option is to use the Character Map.
- On Ubuntu, go to “Applications -> Accessories -> Character Map.”
- Search for “em dash” and select “Find Next.”
- Double-click the character to put it in the “Text to Copy” box at the bottom of the window.
- Copy it and paste it wherever you need it.
Another option is to enable the Compose key.
- Go to “System -> Preferences -> Keyboard -> Layouts” and open “Layout options.”
- Click the arrow next to “Compose key position.”
- Select which key you’d like to use as the Compose key.
- Open “System Settings,” then choose “Regional & Language” and select “Keyboard Layout” on the side.
- Select “Enable keyboard layouts.”
- Go to the Advanced tab and choose the key you’d like to use as the Compose key under “Compose key position.”
Once you’ve enabled the Compose key, hold it down and type three hyphens (- + - + -) to get an em dash.
How to Type an Em Dash on Android
Typing an em dash on Android can be tricky compared to iOS devices, as the default keyboard can change from device to device. You can also easily swap your Android keyboard.
We are using the instructions for Google’s Gboard keyboard, as it is the default on Google phones and available for most other devices via the Play Store.
- Tap the “?123” button in the lower left of the screen to get to the punctuation, then tap and hold the hyphen button.
- After a moment, a small menu will pop up above the key.
- Select the em dash (the longest dash) here.
How to Type an Em Dash on iOS and iPadOS
Typing an em dash on iOS and iPadOS is slightly different. Generally, any option that works on an iPhone will work on an iPad, but on an iPad you have even more options.
The easiest way to type an em dash on the iOS keyboard is to hold down the hyphen key. First, hit the 123 button on the keyboard to show the hyphen (assuming you’re on an iPhone). Then hold down the - (hyphen) key to reveal a row of options above the key and select the longest dash for an em dash.
If you’re using a keyboard on your iPad, you can also use the same Option + Shift + - keyboard shortcut you use to type an em dash on macOS.
How to Type an Em Dash on a Chromebook
As with most other devices, there’s more than one way to type an em dash on a Chromebook.
The simplest option is an option also available on Linux: Press Ctrl + Shift + U, let go, then type 2 + 0 + 1 + 4 and press Space. If you’re used to the Compose key on Linux, you can also install the ComposeKey Chrome extension, then hold down the key you chose and type - + - + - for an em dash.
If you’re working in Google Docs, there’s an easier option. Place your cursor where you want the em dash, then go to “Insert -> Special Characters.” Select Punctuation on the left side and Dash/Connector on the right, then select the em dash to insert it at the cursor.
How to Type an Em Dash in Microsoft Word
By default, Microsoft Word will automatically connect two hyphens (- + -) into an em dash. If you’ve turned off AutoFormat or have disabled this functionality, you may need another option to insert an em dash.
- In the menu bar, go to the “Insert” menu and select “Symbol,” then “More Symbols.”
- A menu of characters will pop up, with the em dash on the second row.
- Click the em dash to insert it, then select “Close” to close this window.
Finally, there is a keyboard shortcut. Type Ctrl + Alt + - to insert an em dash at the cursor location.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an em dash?
Though all dashes might seem the same, they’re not. There are three dash sizes. In order of shortest to longest, they are the hyphen, en dash, and em dash.
2. Why is it called an em dash?
An em dash is simply a dash that is one em wide. An em is a unit related to the font you’re using. One em is the same as the height of a capital letter in the font. Increase font size and the em gets bigger as well. An en dash is more fluid, being either half of one em or the width of a capital letter N.
3. When should you use an em dash instead of a hyphen or en dash?
We most often use the em dash to include a side statement — like this one, for example — within another statement. You’d instead turn to an en dash to connect a range of numbers like 1 – 10, while you’d use a hyphen for compound words like short-term.
4. Are there any cross-platform options for typing an em dash?
If you frequently use multiple devices and operating systems, remembering the various shortcuts for em dashes can be tough. You can use a site like copypastecharacter.com to copy and paste the em dash on various devices. You can also bookmark the Wikipedia page for the dash and copy and paste it whenever you need it.
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