How to Get an Em Dash Shortcut on Windows

This post is different than my usual discourse hereabouts, but it concerns something that, I know, bothers many people — the lack of an easy em dash keyboard shortcut on Windows. On a Mac, it’s alt + shift + hyphen. On a Windows machine, it’s a long character code, or finding an em dash on the internet and copying and pasting it every time. Yesterday I got fed up and did some digging. Here’s how you make an em dash keyboard shortcut on a Windows computer:

Install Auto Hot Key

  • Download and install Auto Hot Key, from here

Make an em dash script file

  • On your desktop right-click anywhere. In the pop-up menu, select “new” and then “AutoHotKey Script”
  • Name this new file “emdash”
  • Right-click on “emdash” and select “edit”
  • There will already be some code in the file. Ignore it and paste the following underneath it.
+!-::
Send {U+2014}
Return

Test that you can make em dashes

  • Now you can test if it’s working: save the file and exit out of the text editor.
  • Double left-click “emdash” to run the script. (It will seem like nothing’s happening, because the script runs in the background.)
  • Open any program where you can type and try the shortcut alt + shift + hyphen. You should get an em dash now, the same way you do on a Mac. If you don’t, you may need to exit out of and restart the autohotkey program (not the script, the program, which you can find my typing “autohotkey” into your start menu), and then double click the “emdash” file again.

Make it work automatically all the time

  • In your startup menu type “run,” and open the “run” app.
  • In the run app, type “shell:common startup” and press enter.
  • Your startup folder will pop up, and you should move your “emdash” file into it. (Your computer may say you need to grant permission as administrator to move this file — and, obviously, you should allow it.) Now when you restart your computer, the “emdash” script will automatically run in the background.

I know that’s a lot of steps — but I promise it’s worth it.

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