What to Know
- The Google Docs mobile app will autocorrect for an em dash when two hyphens are placed together.
- Windows users can create an em dash by holding Alt and typing 0151 on the numpad.
- macOS users can use the Option + Shift + - (hyphen).
The em dash, en dash, and hyphen look similar in Google Docs, but each has a specific purpose. This article explains how to type an em dash, en dash, and hyphen in Google Docs.
How to Get an Em Dash in Google Docs
The Google Docs app on Android and iOS will autocorrect for an em dash when two hyphens are placed together. Tap the hyphen key twice. You'll see Google Docs change the hyphens to an em dash.
Windows users accessing Google Docs in a web browser can create an em dash by holding the Alt key and typing 0151 on the numpad. This shortcut also works in other apps.
macOS users accessing Google Docs in a web browser can create an em dash by holding down the Option and Shift keys while typing the hyphen (dash) key. This shortcut also works in other apps.
How to Get an En Dash in Google Docs
To create an en dash in the Google Docs app for Android or iOS, long press hyphen on the device's virtual keyboard. A selection will appear with three options. The dash in the middle is an en dash.
Windows' users accessing Google Docs in a web browser must open Insert from the menu bar and navigate to Special Characters. Search en dash and select it from the search field.
macOS users accessing Google Docs in a web browser can create an en dash by holding down the Option key while typing the hyphen (dash) key. This shortcut works in other apps.
How to Get a Hyphen in Google Docs
Unlike an em dash or en dash, a hyphen doesn't require a keyboard shortcut. Use the hyphen key on your device's keyboard.
When to Use an Em Dash in Google Docs
The em dash is the longest of the three dashes. It's called an em dash because the dash is about as wide as the capital letter "M."
An em dash creates a break in a sentence similar to a common, semi-colon, colon, or parenthesis.
It's tempting to substitute marionberries with raspberries in this recipe — but that would be a mistake.
An em dash can end a sentence when a writer wants to indicate hesitation or interruption.
The em dash is rather informal, meaning the rules around its use are not as strict as other forms of punctuation. Its use is often a style choice by a writer.
When to Use an En Dash in Google Docs
The en dash is slightly shorter than the em dash. It's typically the width of the capital letter "N." The subtle difference between an em dash and en dash can make them hard to distinguish in Google Docs.
An en dash is used in specific situations. It often separates dates or times in a sentence and is taken to mean "up to and including."
The office will be closed March 1 – March 5.
The en dash in this sentence means the office is closed from March 1 through March 5.
An en dash is also used to connect two proper nouns, such as "the New York–New Jersey train"
When to Use a Hyphen in Google Docs
The hyphen is the most common of these three forms of punctuation. It's shorter than an em dash or en dash.
It's most often used with compound words, like "father-in-law," or numbers, like "forty-two."
However, there's dozens of situations where a hyphen might be used. We recommend Purdue University's guide to the hyphen if you want to learn more about its use.
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