An em dash (“—“) is among the most versatile special characters in standard English OS versions and computer keyboards. Depending on how you use it, this works as a good replacement for commas, colons, and parentheses. However, keep in mind that each case where an em dash is used has a different effect.
The job of an em dash is to set apart and emphasize clauses or parenthetical phrases within the same sentence. Perhaps one of the best ways to think of the Em Dash is a long pause with a bit more emphasis, compared to commas and parentheses.
How to Write an Em Dash in Mac
Plenty of word processors will automatically place in an Em Dash, especially when you join two hyphens together. Otherwise, go look for an Insert Symbol command in your keyboard or word processor.
In Mac OSX, em dashes can be easily written by holding down the Shift and Option keys simultaneously, then typing a hyphen.
On the other hand, MS Word, either on a PC or a Mac computer, will automatically render an Em Dash when you type 2 hyphens, without any space in the middle of both hyphens, between words.
For Microsoft Word, Em Dashes can be typed using CTRL+ALT+numpad hyphen. Keep in mind that this option will only be available when you use a hyphen on the numeric keypad, and not on the main keyboard.
Depending on how you use your Mac computer, an em dash might become a symbol that you have to use for a variety of objectives. Because there are so many symbols, you can get em dashes or en dashes to show up on a page in 2 ways. The first one is to use a keyboard shortcut for it, or use the Special Character panel.
Using Keyboard Shortcuts in Mac
To type an em dash, hold down the Option and Shift keys together, then press the Minus key. Alternatively, you can also press down the Hyphen key two times, followed by Space.
On the other hand, to type an en dash, hold down the Option key, then press the Minus key.
Using the Special Characters Panel
Open up a word-processing program. A good example is TextEdit. Then, click the Edit menu and choose “Emoji & Symbols”. Next, press Shift+Command+Space to open up the Special Characters panel.
You can scroll up towards the top of the Special Characters panel to type the symbol that you want to use. In this case, it’s an em dash, which is located in the search field. Click on the em dash symbol before pasting it onto the document.
More About Em Dashes
These em dashes (“—“) are twice as long as the en dash (“–“). Its length is pretty much the same as the width of the letter “M”, which is where it gets its name.
Em dashes are typically used to denote a sudden break in thoughts. You must never confuse an em dash for an en dash, or even for a hyphen, which is much narrower. All 3 of these characters can have different effects on the contextual meaning of your content.