How to insert an Em Dash in Word Document

The em dash (—) is considered to be the most flexible punctuation mark. It’s commonly used to express interruption between ideas, show emphasis, or to introduce another thought.

In informal writing, the em dash is usually used in place of commas, parentheses, colons, and semicolons.

MS Word offers several features that you can use to easily insert punctuation marks or symbols in your document.

Of course—this includes the em dash. Follow along with this article to learn the different ways on how you can insert em dash to your documents.

Now, there are three methods you can use to insert an em dash character into a Word document.

3 Ways to Insert an Em Dash in Word Document

  • Using the keyboard shortcuts
  • Using the Special Characters tab on the Symbol dialog box
  • Using the Character Map program

MS Word considers the em dash as a special character. You’ll need to use any of the methods above to successfully insert it into your document. Learn each of these methods so that you will always have alternatives when one of them doesn’t suit your case.

Let’s get started!

Why Should You Insert Em Dash in a Word Document?

The most apparent reason for inserting em dash characters is to further enhance the clarity of your documents. Em dash is a versatile punctuation mark that you can use to emphasize statements or provide interventions to ideas. 

You may have considered using this character to restructure and improve the readability of your contents. While this rationale is good, there are still considerations that you need to keep in mind before eventually using this in your documents.

Here are some good rules of thumb to help you decide when to use em dash in your documents:

  • You are writing informal content.
  • You want to restructure or rephrase the confusing parts of your document.
  • You want to limit the different types of punctuation marks that are on your content, such as commas, parentheses, colons and semicolons.

If you find yourself in cases similar to these situations, you need to include em dash to your document. Do not worry about the technicalities of inserting em dash because this article simplifies them for you.

Now, let’s dive right in!

Method 1: Using the Keyboard Shortcut

You can only use this method if your keyboard has a numeric keypad, because the numpad keys are essential for this step. In case your keyboard doesn’t have it at the moment, you can still read this so that you’ll know what to do once you experience this situation.

Here’s how you can do this.

Step 1: Open MS Word.

Begin by opening the MS Word program on your computer. Search for the program by pressing the Windows key, followed by typing the keyword “Word”. Your system will display all programs associated with the keyword. From the result, click the MS Word program to open it.

Step 2: Open a document.

To follow along with this tutorial, you’ll need to have an open document. Use the appropriate controls on the Start screen to either create a blank document or open an existing file in your storage. Shown below is a new document with some texts.

Step 3: Place your mouse cursor to where you will insert the em dash.

Determine the part of your document where you intend to insert the em dash character. Once identified, click on it to position your mouse cursor. The em dash will appear on the location of the mouse cursor once inserted. You can also highlight a word or phrase to replace it with the em dash. 

Step 4: Turn off Num Lock on the Numeric keypad.

Since most of the keys that you’ll be using are located on the Numeric keypad, you need to make sure that you will be able to use them. To do so, turn off the Num Lock on your keyboard by pressing its key. If your keyboard doesn’t have a light indicator, ensure that the Num Lock is already turned off by typing a number using the Numeric keypad. If the number displays on your screen, it means that the Num Lock is already turned off. You can proceed with the next step afterwards.

Step 5: Press the shortcut keys of em dash.

Upon turning off the Num Lock, you can proceed with the shortcut keys. Hold the Alt key on your keyboard and on your numeric keypad, press 0,1,5, and 1 respectively. Release the keys and an em dash character should be inserted to where your selection area is.

Method 2: Using the Special Characters tab on the Symbol Dialog Box

Located on the Symbol dialog box is the Special Characters tab. You can also use this tab to insert an em dash character. This method can be your alternative if your keyboard doesn’t have a Numeric keypad.

Here are the steps on how you can use it.

Step 1: Open a document in Word.

Like the first method, you’ll need to have an open document already. It doesn’t matter if it is a new or old document. Just make sure that it is opened in your MS Word program.

Step 2: Place your mouse cursor to where you intend to position the em dash.

Position your mouse cursor on the section of your document where you will insert the em dash character. Ensure that no character is highlighted for this will be replaced by the em dash once it is inserted, unless that’s what you want.

Step 3: Display the Symbol dialog box.

On your MS Word ribbon, click the Insert tab to make it active. Find the Symbol drop-down button and click it to view the list of recently-used symbols. At the bottom of the list, you’ll see the More Symbols button. Click it to display the Symbol dialog box. From here, you will only need to focus on the Special Characters tab.

Step 4: Select and insert the em dash character.

Make sure that the Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box is active by clicking it. Shown in this tab is a list of characters that can be inserted into your document. From the list, click the Em Dash character and subsequently click the Insert button. This will insert the selected character to where your mouse cursor is located. To exit the dialog box, simply click its Close button.

Method 3: Using the Character Map Program

Another technique you can apply is through a pre-installed program called Character Map. This program contains a collection of special characters that you can copy and paste into your other programs.

To use this program, follow the simple steps below.

Step 1: Open a Word document.

Use the MS Word program installed on your computer to open an old or new document. You can open a document by simply right-clicking it and choosing Open from the context menu. If you don’t have a saved document at the moment, you can just start with a new one.

Step 2: Identify where the em dash will be inserted.

With your document already open, click on the section where you want to insert the em dash. If you intend to replace a character with the em dash, you can just highlight it.

Step 3:  Open the Character Map program.

Now that the document is ready, you need to launch the Character Map program to search for the em dash character. Press the Windows key on your keyboard and type the keyword “Character Map”. From the result, click the program to open it. 

Step 4: Find and copy the em dash sign on the Character Map.

At the bottom of the Character Map program, you’ll find the Advanced view checkbox. If it’s not yet checked, mark it to display the search controls. Type “em dash” in the search box and click the Search button to filter the list and display only the em dash character.

Double click the em dash symbol from the list. Upon doing this, you’ll notice that the character appears on the Characters to copy field. Store the selected character into your clipboard by clicking the Copy button. Once done, you can already exit the Character Map application.

Step 5: Paste the copied em dash to your document.

You can paste the copied em dash to your document by simply pressing Ctrl and V keys on your keyboard. The em dash will appear on where your mouse cursor is currently located.


That about wraps it up for today! Hopefully, we ‘ve helped you figure out how to insert an em dash in your Word document. Here’s a quick review of the entire article, in one short paragraph.

You just learned the different techniques on how you can insert em dash to your documents. With these techniques, you no longer have to worry about searching for the em dash on Google to copy-paste it. However, before using the em dash, review the rules of thumb and recognize your situation. Do you really need to include this symbol or not? If needed, then the methods discussed in this article are thoroughly outlined for you to follow.

We hope you found this article helpful!

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