An em dash is a very commonly used punctuation mark. It looks similar to a hyphen, which is why many people confuse it with a hyphen. However, they are both different. A hyphen is shorter than an em dash and is used for connecting words. Some examples of words connected by a hyphen include: bird-watching, high-rise, and life-size.
On the other hand, an em dash is generally used like a comma. You can use it to add an additional piece of information and for emphasis. Take this sentence as an example: Google Docs – one of the most popular word processing applications – is really useful for students. In this sentence, we used em dashes to provide additional information about Google Docs.
There are several ways of creating an em dash in Google Docs.
3 methods to insert Em Dash on Google Docs:
- Using a keyboard shortcut to create the em dash
- Using the special character’s option in the ‘Insert’ menu
- Changing the dash preferences in Google Docs
Note that this article is intended for complete beginners. So, you can follow along even if you have very little to no experience with Google Docs.
With that introduction, let’s learn the 3 methods.
Method 1: Using a keyboard shortcut to create the em dash
The first option involves using a keyboard shortcut to insert an em dash. This is the most convenient method of all the 3 methods so we recommend that you use this one.
Here are the steps for this method.
Step 1: Open your Google Docs document.
The first step is to open the Google Docs document in which you would like to insert the em dash. To do this, type docs.google.com in your browser’s search bar, then press Enter (or Return if you are using a Mac). This will take you to the Google Docs homepage. Make sure that you are first signed in to your Google account. Otherwise, you will not be able to see the homepage.
Once you are on the Google Docs homepage, you can open a new file. You can either create a new document or select an existing one.
To create a new blank document, click on the plus sign at the top of the screen. You can also type docs.new in the search bar of your browser and press Enter or Return. This will open a new tab with the blank Google Docs document.
You can also create a new document by selecting one of the templates from the template gallery. Google Docs gives you many options for templates: reports, resumes, class notes, etc.
If you want to open an existing document, just select a file under ‘Recent documents’. This will open the file in a new tab.
Step 2: Place your cursor at the point where you would like to insert the em dash.
Go over your document and place your cursor at the point where you would like to insert the dash. If it is a blank document, you can type out a few sentences, then correctly place your cursor.
To place your cursor at a particular point on the screen, just click on that point. The blinking cursor should then appear there.
Step 3: Press Alt (also called Option on a Mac keyboard) and the minus sign at the same time.
To insert the em dash, press the Alt key (which is also called the Option key on a Mac keyboard) and the minus sign on the keyboard at the same time. The minus sign is next to the zero key at the top of the keyboard. This will insert the em dash on the screen.
Method 2: Using the special characters option in the ‘Insert’ menu
The next method involves choosing the em dash from the special characters window. This method is useful when you want to insert other special characters along with the em dash. In the special characters window, you will find a variety of symbols such as Greek and Latin symbols. You can easily insert them from the window into your document.
However, one downside of this method is that it takes more time and effort than the previous method.
With that introduction, here are the steps for this method.
Step 1: Click on the ‘Insert’ tab.
The ‘Insert’ tab is located in the top left corner of the screen. Click on it to open the ‘Insert’ drop down menu.
Step 2: Click on the ‘Special Characters’ option in the ‘Insert’ drop down menu.
Somewhere in the middle of the ‘Insert’ drop down menu, you should see the ‘Special Characters’ option. Click on it to open the ‘Special Characters’ window where you will find unique symbols that you can insert in your document.
In this window, there are 3 ways of inserting symbols in your document. The first is to type the name of the symbol in the search bar at the top right corner. This method is useful if you know the name of the symbol you would like to insert.
The second method is to select the categories for the symbol from the 2 drop down menus. These menus are located at the top of the window. For example, from the first drop down menu, you can select ‘Latin’ and from the second drop down menu, you can select ‘Common.’ This will show you all the available common Latin symbols. The benefit of this method is that it displays a wide array of symbols that you can choose from. The downside is that you won’t get a specific symbol.
The last method is to draw the symbol. This is useful if you know what the symbol looks like but don’t know its name. When you draw the symbol, Google Docs will show you all the symbols that match your drawing.
Step 3: Type ‘em dash’ in the search bar.
To get the em dash symbol, we will use the second method of finding and inserting symbols. Type ‘em dash’ in the search bar at the top right corner of the window. Then, press the ‘Enter’ (or ‘Return,’ if you’re using a Mac) key on the keyboard. This will give you a few search results.
Step 4: Locate your cursor where you would like to insert the dash.
Click on the point in your document where you would like to insert the em dash. The blinking cursor should appear at this point.
Step 5: Click on the first symbol from the search results.
The first symbol in the search results is the em dash. Click on it to insert the dash in your document. It will be inserted at the point where you placed your cursor.
Step 6: Close the special characters window.
At the top right corner of the window, you should find the ‘x’ mark. Click on it to close the special characters window.
Method 3: Changing the dash preferences in Google Docs
Now, let’s talk about the final method of inserting an em dash in your document. In this method, you will change the preferences in Google Docs such that every time you insert a hyphen symbol in your document, it will be replaced by the em dash.
The main benefit of this method is that it will save you a lot of time and effort in the future. You just have to press one key to insert the em dash. However, the downside is that it will be harder to insert a hyphen in your document. If you use the hyphen symbol a lot, you would be better off using one of the previous two methods.
Below are the steps for this method.
Step 1: Click on the ‘Tools’ tab.
The ‘Tools’ tab is located at the top left corner of the screen. Click on it to open the ‘Tools’ menu.
Step 2: Click on the ‘Preferences’ option from the ‘Tools’ menu.
This option is located at the bottom of the ‘Tools’ menu. Click on it to open the ‘Preferences’ window.
Step 3: Click on the ‘Substitutions’ tab in the window.
In the ‘Preferences’ window, you should find 2 tabs: General and Substitutions. Click on the ‘Substitutions’ tab. Here, you can choose how you would like to substitute different characters. For example, you can replace –> with →.
Step 4: Add a hyphen symbol (-) under ‘Replace’ and the em dash (–) under ‘With’.
The first row in the tab is blank, allowing you to add new entries. Under the ‘Replace’ column, enter the hyphen symbol (-). Under the ‘With’ column, enter the em dash (–). You can type the em dash by pressing the Alt (or Control) and hyphen symbol simultaneously.
Once you have added the entry, click on the ‘OK’ button at the bottom of the window. This will close the window.
(Optional) Step 5: Test that the substitution works.
This step is to make sure that the change actually works. To do this, press the hyphen key (next to the 0 key) then press Enter (or Return). The hyphen should automatically be converted into an em dash.
This brings us to the end of the article. Since we have covered a lot today, here’s a brief recap to make sure that you remember everything.
An em dash is a type of dash that is used like a comma. For example, you can use it to add an additional piece of information in your sentence.
In Google Docs, there are 3 ways of inserting an em dash in your document. The first method is to use the keyboard shortcut. Just click on the Alt (or Option) and hyphen keys at the same time to insert the em dash.
The second way is to use the special characters option in the ‘Insert’ menu. Go to the ‘Insert’ menu and click on the ‘Special Characters’ option. This will open the ‘Special Characters’ window. Search for the em dash and click on the symbol to insert it in your document. For this method and the previous one, make sure to place your cursor at the point in the document where you would like to insert the em dash.
Finally, you can also insert an em dash by changing Google Docs preferences. Go to the ‘Preferences’ window from the ‘Tools’ menu. In the ‘Substitutions’ tab, replace the hyphen with the em dash. Now, every time you type a hyphen, it will automatically be converted into an em dash.
Thank you for reading!