Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Inserting Different Dashes.

Inserting Different Dashes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 28, 2016)


Typographers use different dashes for different purposes. The only difference between the dashes is their width. For instance, you get one type of dash when you press on the minus key—it is a dash that is very narrow. A longer dash is called an en dash, because it is the same width as a lowercase n. An en-dash is typically used to denote ranges of numbers. Wider still is the em-dash, which is just as wide as a lowercase m. The em-dash is typically used in sentences, as a dash between clauses.

To insert an en-dash in your document, hold down the Alt key and type 0150 on the numeric keypad; an em-dash is produced by holding down the Alt key and typing 0151. You could also use the Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box to add the dashes.

You may be familiar with using em- and en-dashes from working with Word. They work the same way in Excel. The only caveat is that when you use special dashes (as opposed to a regular minus sign), Excel automatically treats the information in your cell as text.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3577) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Inserting Different Dashes.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 5?

2016-03-28 07:52:56


Many laptop computers that do not have a numeric keypad emulate numeric keypad entry by use of the "Alt" + "Shift" keys. For instance on my Toshiba the combination Alt+Shift+M gives me a 0 (zero).

An alternative is to set up an autocorrect facility one for "endash" entry and the other for "emdash" entry. This needs only to be set-up once as Excel will then remember it forever.

2013-06-13 16:03:00

Aldo Santolla

Windows already has a little app called "Character Map". This app will load ALL you installed fonts and list every character for each font. You will be able to cut and paste from this app directly. This is very helpful for those laptop users that don't have a numeric keypad, like me.

2013-06-10 11:25:20


Because I use "chr()" in my VBA and often work with a laptop that has no separate numeric keypad I tend to use "char()" on my spreadsheets when I want a special character.

Because I'm better at remembering what a character is called than its character code, I also have added some special characters to my Workbook Names. That way when I am putting together a formula it's fairly straighforward in my head. The tricky part is being consistent with the font in use. An UpArrow is not always an upwards pointing arrow, it may be an enya (Spanish "n" with tilde).

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