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Sticking with the Dashes

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: Sticking with the Dashes.

As discussed in other issues of WordTips, en dashes and em dashes are "sticky" with the word that they follow, and cannot be made sticky with the word that follows the dash. Thus, if you have two words separated by an em dash, and the combination appears near the end of a line, Word will wrap from one line to the next right after the em dash; you cannot force Word to keep both words and their connecting dash on the same line.

There is one workaround you can use, however. Let's assume that you have two words (first and second) separated by an em dash, as in first—second. If you want these to always be together, follow these steps:

  1. Select the two words and the em dash.
  2. Press Ctrl+X to cut the text from the document and place it on the Clipboard.
  3. Press Ctrl+F9. Word inserts a set of field braces at the insertion point.
  4. Press Backspace and then Delete (or Delete and then Backspace) to get rid of the two spaces automatically inserted between the field braces.
  5. Type EQ followed by a space.
  6. Press Ctrl+V. Word pastes the two words separated by the em dash.
  7. Press Shift+F9 to display the results of the field.

The result is that the field now shows your two words separated by an em dash. The results of the field always appear on a single line, so the words and their dash will always be together. This approach works regardless of the type of dash between the two words.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3527) 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: Sticking with the Dashes.

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Comments for this tip:

Jim    27 Apr 2013, 21:48
I work in Latin America where quotations are set off with em-dashes. To get the sticky effect I found that the "minus sign" sticks (it is not the same char as on the num pad!). It is a little shorter than em and longer than en, but it is pleasant for reading. You can find it in the insert symbols dialog next to the uppercase sigma - unicode #2212. I set up a shortcut key there to make it easy to insert, choosing to use ctrl+alt+hyphen. You could use the autocorrect option there if you wanted instead.
Ashley Smith    27 Apr 2013, 06:13
You can force a sticky en dash between two words at the end of a line by typing the two words without a space between, then place the cursor between the joined up words and hold Shift and Ctrl keys down while pressing the dash key. In a similar way, you can force a sticky space between words or numbers at the end of a line by removing the normal space between the words, placing the cursor between the joined up words, then hold the Shift and Ctrl keys down while pressing the space bar. A good example of this latter use is with a date, say, August 12 2013, where one of the three elements may appear on one line and the other two on the adjacent line if the normal space is inserted.
malcolm    27 Apr 2013, 05:08
There's an even easier way. Type the first word of the pair you don't want to break. (If it ends in a,b,c,d,e or f, add a temporary space.) Type 2015 and, with the cursor immediately after the 5, hit Alt-X. You'll see what looks like an em-rule but is actually a horizontal bar, which is sticky at both ends. Now type the second word (and delete any temporary space. The reason for the space is that the 2015 is hex code for a horizontal bar; but [a-f]2015 are hex codes for nothing. 2014 is hex code for an em-rule; 2013 for an en-rule, both of which can be generated with the same technique.)
 
 

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