In most word processing applications, entering two sequential dashes is enough to create an em dash. Not in Google Documents:

two sequential dashes example

It'd be nice if those two hyphens joined together — wouldn't it?

(The em dash directly above was written using HTML: —.)

So how to create an em dash in Google Documents?

  • 4
    This question is actually (kind of) wrong – typing two hyphens typically gives an en dash, and em dashes are often created with three hyphens. Additionally, while spaces should be used around en dashes (e.g. my previous sentence), em dashes are used without spaces—like this. May 18, 2016 at 17:30

9 Answers 9


Actually, in Google Docs you can have it automatically replace the two dashes with the em dash while you type!

  1. Tools > Preferences...
  2. In 'Replace' type: -- (include space on each side)
  3. In 'With': Enter the em dash character*:
    • Windows: Hold Alt and enter 0151
    • Mac: Option + Shift + -

* as suggested by OnenOnlyWalter

Preferences Dialog

  • 3
    Unfortunately it seems like you need to put a space after for the conversion to happen. Also, if you immediately hit backspace to remove the space, it converts back to two dashes.
    – Muhd
    Aug 14, 2016 at 20:31
  • The alt keystroke combination didn't work for me, but combining this answer with the one below about inserting special characters did the trick.
    – dolphus333
    Feb 17, 2018 at 1:05
  • 1
    This backspace and lose the em non-logic is still here and it is quite annoying. Oct 6, 2018 at 8:36

Answer by @SamtheBrand is correct, but there are also keyboard shortcuts to insert an em dash.

Windows: Hold Alt and enter 0151

Mac: Option + Shift + -

  • 2
    Alt+0150 and Option+- are for EN-dash (shorter one). For EM-dash (longer one): Alt+0151 in Windows and Option+Shift+- on a Mac.
    – ash108
    May 10, 2014 at 13:34
  • 2
    Ah, my mistake, you're right. Updated my answer for accuracy. Thanks! May 14, 2014 at 21:14
  • 2
    You have to enter the numbers on the numpad, at least on my computer; the regular number keys don't work. Oct 12, 2016 at 10:34

Insert > Special Characters...

enter image description here

Make sure you're in "Punctuation" in the left menu, and "Dash/Connector" in the right menu.

enter image description here

The em dash is the third from farthest right option. Click it and hit insert.


One problem with the the first option (Tools, preferences) is that, supposedly, there should be no spaces before or after the m-dash, but the moment you enter a space after the dash thus inserted it reverts back to the two hyphens. The problem with the second option (Insert, Special characters) is "too many steps."

The workaround that works for me is to just type two hyphens, and when you are done with your document, do a Edit, Find and replace. Find: -- ; Replace with: alt+0151. Replace all.

Alternatively, if you have the preference already selected, you can do the same: at the end, find and replace all "— " (m-dash followed by space) with "—" (without the space).

  • Two hyphens is usually en dash, while three is em dash.
    – khatchad
    Jan 11, 2021 at 19:51
  • As a workaround, I don't immediately delete the space with a "backspace", but I go back one character using the left arrow and then I hit "delete". Feb 8, 2021 at 17:52

if you do the replace -- with an em dash, and are having trouble because it requires a space afterwards, just do this. after you do the "--" and then press space, press these keys in this order "right arrow, left arrow, backspace." that should get rid of the space and keep the em dash. hope this helps.


Google Docs on a Mac:

  • option+hyphen = en-dash,
  • option+shift+hyphen = em-dash

On Mac, just hold fn + option + -


ChromeOS: Press Ctrl+Shift+U. An underlined U will appear. Press 2, 0, 1, 4, then space-bar. An em dash should appear.

Long and annoying process, but less annoying than Insert>Special Characters, because you don't have to take your hands away from the keyboard. Now to remember it.


Google Docs: option+hyphen, option+hyphen will make an em-dash.

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