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En and Em Dashes

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Types of Dashes

There are several kinds of dashes, differing from one another in length. There are en dashes (short), em dashes (medium), and 2‑ and 3‑em dashes (long). The term em dash is a printer's term meaning the width of the letter "m." The en dash takes up a width equal to the letter "n."

Forming the Em Dash in MS Word

Do not use two hyphens to form the dash; you have the correct character in Word and should use it.

The most commonly used dash in word-processed material is the em dash, formed in Microsoft Word by clicking "Insert" and then "Symbol" and then "Special Characters." At the top, you'll find the "em dash," which you can then "Insert." Better yet, use a specially assigned key, usually an "Alt + key" combination.

Forming the Em Dash in Emails

When writing emails, you can form a proper em dash by holding down the "Alt" key and typing "0151" on your numeric pad. Release the "Alt" key, and the em dash appears.


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