Using InDesign Better: Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes in Adobe InDesign

Once you know how to effectively use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes in your writing, it’s time to make sure you can place the right punctuation quickly and easily.

We’ve discussed how to bend Microsoft Word to your whims by either using auto-correct or outsmarting it with custom keyboard shortcuts. Now we’ll turn our attention to the other big name in document creation: Adobe InDesign.

Adobe InDesign has a couple ways to insert en dashes and em dashes right where you want them. Like Word’s Insert → Symbol action, InDesign allows you to use the menu to navigate to the right dash.

Click on Type, and toward the bottom of the drop-down menu, hover over Insert Special Character. From the list that appears to the side, hover over Hyphens and Dashes, and click on either Em Dash or En Dash. (Remember that en dashes always have spaces around them and that em dashes never do.)

If you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to insert these types of symbols and characters, then you’re in luck. InDesign already features intuitive shortcuts for en dashes and em dashes that can be used on any keyboard with a hyphen key, unlike the built-in shortcuts in Word that require a number pad to do correctly.

  • En dash: Alt + – (hyphen)
  • Em dash: Shift + Alt + –

InDesign also has these shortcuts included on the menu when you use that method to insert these characters, so you can always remember them!