How to Make an EN Dash and EM Dash in Microsoft Word: Tips and Memory Tool

By Filonia LeChat

Barely discernible by the eye, it may be surprising to know that the length of a very short horizontal line on a Microsoft Word page may make a huge difference in its meaning. Two similar symbols, the em and en dashes, may be close in length but are worlds apart in meaning. Columbia University urges writers not to overuse these symbols, but Microsoft Word makes them readily available through the click of a button.

Step 1

Open Microsoft Word. Click the top of the page's "Insert" tab.

Step 2

Click the "Symbol" button on the ribbon. Click "More Symbols."

Step 3

Click the "Special Characters" tab.

Step 4

Click once on either the "Em Dash" or the "En Dash" options -- they are the first two on the scroll list.

Step 5

Click the "Insert" button. The dash is inserted into the Word document, but you may have to move the "Symbol" window out of the way to see it. Click the "Close" button.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to Columbia University, the en dash -- the shorter of the two -- is used to substitute for words such as "and" or "to" as well, as to show a range. The em dash may mean a break in thought, a substitute for "in other words" or be used to replace the phrase "in other words."