Robert Batten

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Author

October 14, 2016

Using em-dash in iOS

Using em-dash in iOS

As a writer, the em-dash is one of the most common characters I use that isn’t available easily on keyboards. Most word-processor applications will automatically convert two consecutive  hyphens “- -” (no space between) into an em-dash, but there are lots of other scenarios where you might want to use one.

What is an em-dash?

The Punctuation Guide has a good summary here.
Incredibly basic call out — you use a hyphen within joined words/names John Smith-Jones or mother-in-law. Em-dashes are physically longer (horizontally) and are used to join ideas / sentence parts. From the Punctuation Guide:

The em dash is perhaps the most versatile punctuation mark. Depending on the context, the em dash can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons—in each case to slightly different effect.

How to make it easy to insert em-dash in your writing on iOS

iOS doesn’t provide a function for inserting “special characters” like the em-dash. If the software you are using doesn’t automatically convert double hyphens to em-dash, then you have three options:

  1. Use the software keyboard. On the software keyboard, if you hold down the hyphen, it brings up alternative characters including the em-dash (thanks to @ben_hr for pointing this out to me).
  2. Use the physical keyboard shortcut shift + option + [hyphen] (thanks to @parisba for pointing this one out to me).
  3. Have an em-dash character in a file somewhere on your device. Copy/paste it whenever you want to use it.
  4. Configure text replacement for your iOS keyboard.

Option 1 is perfect, unless you do a lot of typing on your ipad using the keyboard cover (like I do).
Option 2 is great — I didn't know about that keyboard shortcut originally.
Option 3 sucks. Don’t do that.
Option 4 is easy to set up, and then works like a charm if you can't remember the keyboard shortcut.

  • Go into settings > keyboard > Text replacement. In this area you can configure your own autocorrect entries (by default, there is an entry in there for changing “omw” to “On my way!”).
  • Add a new entry.
    • In the “phrase” field, paste an em-dash. The easiest way to do this may be to use a word processor to create the character. If you need to use a desktop computer to do this, just email the em-dash to yourself after.
    • In the “shortcut” field, put two hyphens “- -” (no space between).
  • Now, whenever you type two-hyphen anywhere in iOS, it will automatically autocorrect to an em-dash.

Feature image courtesy of pixels.

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