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Standard keyboards don’t have dedicated keys for special punctuation marks, such as an en or em dash, if you want to use them in Google Docs. Here’s how you can create hyphens and dashes in your documents.

As we are a technology website, we won’t go into detail about when and how to use each form of punctuation. Instead, you can check out what a hyphenen dash, and em dash are if you’re unsure when to use each punctuation mark. Essentially, a hyphen is a dash (-), an en dash is the length of two dashes (–), and an em dash is the length of three dashes (—).

Manually Create Hyphens and Dashes

The first thing you’ll need to do is fire up your browser and open a Google Docs file to get started.

A hyphen is the easiest punctuation mark to create in Google Docs. Likely, your keyboard already has a key just for this purpose. Depending on the layout of the keyboard, the hyphen key is at the top and beside the zero (0) key. All you have to do is press it, and that’s it. Hyphen created.

En and em dashes are a little more tricky to find. Keyboards don’t have keys that are dedicated to these punctuation marks. Unless you’re a professional writer, you probably aren’t going to be using them that often.

Although you could enter the corresponding Alt key code for either en or em dash, you have an easier way to insert them into your document. Docs has a Special Characters tool that lets you add them without having to remember their codes.

Click on your document where you want to insert the dash, open the “Insert” menu, and then click “Special Characters.”

Click "Insert" and then click "Special Characters."

After the tool opens, type “em dash” or “en dash” into the search bar and then click the symbol from the results on the left.

Type em dash into the search bar, and then click on the character to insert it into your document.

Note: Several types of en and em dashes show up in the search results. To be sure you choose the right one, hover the mouse over each one before you click on it.

Hover over each one to make sure you insert the right type of dash.

When you click on the dash you want, it gets inserted directly into the file where the cursor is in your document.

the dash gets inserted in the spot your input cursor is located.

If you rarely use en and em dashes, this method is excellent. However, if you use them a lot, you can tell Docs to automatically format hyphens into en or em dashes.

Automatically Create Dashes

Microsoft Word has a built-in function—AutoFormat—that automatically converts hyphens into en and em dashes when you type -- and --- , respectively. Google Docs doesn’t replace them by default. However, you can tell it to convert strings of characters into whatever you want, such as special characters like en and em dashes.

From your Google Docs file, use the method above to insert an en dash or em dash into your document, highlight the dash character, right-click it, and then click “Copy.” Alternatively, press Ctrl+C on Windows or Command+C on macOS to copy the symbol.

Highlight the dash, right-click it, and then click "Copy."

Next, select the “Tools” menu and then click “Preferences.”

Click "Tools" and then click "Preferences."

In the Automatic Substitution section, type either two or three hyphens into the “Replace” field. Next, paste the copied dash into the “With” field by right-clicking the box and selecting “Paste” or by pressing Ctrl+V on Windows or Command+V on macOS. Click “OK” to save the changes and close the window.

In the sections below, type either two or three hyphens in the "Replace" field, and then paste the corresponding dash you copied into the "With" field, using Ctrl+V.

Now, repeat these steps for the other type of dash and that’s it. The next time you need to insert a dash, just type either two or three hyphens for an en or em dash. Docs does the rest and automatically converts them without the Special Characters tool.

Brady Gavin Brady Gavin
Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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