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Inserting a Non-Breaking Hyphen

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Inserting a Non-Breaking Hyphen.

When Word calculates line length and wraps text to the next line, it tries to break the line at a space or a hyphen—a dash. Sometimes, however, you may not want Word to break a line at a dash. For instance, dashes are used in telephone numbers, and you might not want a line to break in the middle of a telephone number.

The answer to this dilemma is to use non-breaking hyphens instead of regular dashes when you don't want Word to break a line at the hyphen. To do this, hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys as you type the dash (this is the same as typing Ctrl and an underscore). Word will then not break the line at that point.

You can also insert a non-breaking hyphen by following these steps:

  1. Choose Symbol from the Insert menu. Word displays the Insert Symbol dialog box.
  2. Click on the Special Characters tab. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box.

  4. Highlight the Nonbreaking Hyphen character.
  5. Click on Insert.
  6. Close the dialog box by clicking on Cancel.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1116) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Inserting a Non-Breaking Hyphen.

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Comments for this tip:

question    20 Aug 2016, 11:40
I have a problem with end smart quotes wrapping to the next line. I have to use certain symbols before the quote that aren't covered here. How can I keep *any* combination of characters together? Specifically:

—” (em dash and end smart quote)
…” (ellipses and end smart quote)
Ren    25 Jan 2016, 02:03
By creating a macro, one can use the Ctrl+Shift+_ to enter a true non-break hyphen (en-dash).

Here are the steps (for Word 2010):

1. Go to "View" tab
2. Select "Macros"
3. Select "Record macro"
4. type in a macro name
5. Select "Keyboard"
6. Press Ctrl+Shift+_
7. Select "Assign"
8. Select "Close"
9. Key Alt+0173 (using numeric pad)
10. Go to "View" tab
11. select "Stop recording"

Jay de Silva    01 Nov 2015, 18:01
Unfortunately neither you nor Microsoft has realized that both Ctrl+Shift+_ and the above procedure inserts a non-breaking en-dash, quite different from a dash or hyphen (the hyphen being the same length as a dash). As a Technical author, this anomaly has exasperated me no end.

However, there is a work around that I use, and that is to use Alt+0173, which is a proper non-breaking hyphen, the same length as a dash.

By the way, if you convert a document with Word's non-breaking hyphens into a PDF file, the later changes them into proper non-breaking hyphens the same length as a dash or hyphen.
Norman Dale    26 Sep 2015, 09:48
A bit dangerous to use the term "hyphen" and "dash" as if they are synonyms. Proofreaders and editors distinguish between them and in fact there are two sorts of dashes referred to as "em dashes" (really long ones) — and "en dashes" – shorter than "ems" but longer than hyphen. See the three below.

Nick    17 Aug 2015, 11:22
Alt 0173 and Alt 0160 work for both Word and Excel.

Ctrl-Shift - and Ctrl-Shift-Space only work in Word.

Looks like, people who wrote Word and Excel had no idea what the other team is doing.
Ryan Eakins    01 Apr 2014, 23:00
Word's AutoCorrect can be used to change normal hyphens into non-breaking hyphens.
Marc    05 Mar 2013, 17:55
UNFORTUNATELY, the nonbreaking hyphen in Word (2007) appears to be an en-dash (or an em; at initial glance, I cannot tell the diff). If you want an actual nonbreaking hyphen, unicode 0173 (ALT+[the number on NUM pad]) does that.

Ulisses Amaral    04 Jan 2013, 09:22
Hi guys. I have a long document with more than 20 thousand regular hyphens, which I needed to convert to non-breaking ones. Of course I could always go one by one, but that didn't sound like something I wanted to do. :). So, I was a long time looking for a way of doing an automated way of converting all the regular into non-breaking. Finally I discovered.

BTW, I'm using Microsoft Word 2010.

1) go to find and replace (Ctrl + H)
2) In the "find what" you type a regular hyphen, the minus sign "-"
3) In the "Replace with" you type "^~" without the quotation marks.
4) Now click on replace all

and voila!

Hope to help you.

Cheers from Brazil
scientist    04 Oct 2012, 12:04
thank you. This just made my job 100 times less frustrating!
Nathaniel    11 Sep 2012, 11:57
Actually, sorry this did not work. I was looking for a non-breaking en dash, to no avail. This is as close as it gets: http://word.tips.net/T000482_Non-breaking_Em_Dashes.html
Time to learn LaTeX.
Nathaniel    11 Sep 2012, 11:49
Liana - use Ctrl+h and type Ctrl+Num- in the "replace with" box to fix a whole document at once
Liana Kastina    30 Jul 2012, 23:16
How do I set a default so that Word will not wrap text with dashes to the next line? Meaning, is there a way to tell Word to treat ALL dashes as nonbreaking hyphens?

I have documents with LOTS and LOTS of dashes. I don't want to have to make all those corrections.
Catherine Wightwick    31 Jan 2012, 06:32
In Word 2010 it is possible to put non-break spaces into fields (by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Space when I type into the field contents), but I am struggling to find a way to put a non-break hyphen into a field in the same way. Any guidance much appreciated.

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