Non-breaking en rule (en dash) in Microsoft Word… not really.

Say you’ve got a number range. The proper way to format that is with an en rule (en dash), so it looks something like ‘4­–5’ whereas a hyphen would look like ‘4-5’. Now, you probably don’t want the number range to break across lines. That’s fine with a hyphen, since Ctrl-Shift-Hyphen gives a non-breaking hyphen (in Word). But you don’t want a hyphen you want an en rule. One option is to put in a non-breaking hyphen then make it twice as wide.

  • Highlight the non-breaking hyphen (and the hyphen alone, not any trailing/leading characters or spaces).
  • Right click on the hyphen and select the ‘Font…’ menu, then ‘Advanced’ (rule #1 in Microsoft products: Just about anything worth doing is considered ‘Advanced’).
  • Change the number in the ‘Scale’ box to be about 200%.
  • Exit from the menus.
  • Type an en rule in your document, alongside the stretched hyphen. (Ctrl-Keypad Minus.)
  • Compare.
  • Swear.
  • Use it anyway since it’s the most reasonable alternative. You may want to adjust the height; but will this highly manual fix work if font is then changed? No.
  • Watch while Word mysteriously moves the instruction to widen the characters to random places in the document so you end up with double width text in unexpected places.
  • Swear.
  • Learn LaTeX where all you need to type is \mbox{4–5}.
Dialog box in Microsoft Word for changing character size, position and spacing.

Stretch out the hyphen (or anything else) using the ‘Scale’ box. Gives fixed selections but can type in other values. Something between 175% and 225% usually works. Note: Can also be used to adjust the position if need be.

I have tried putting text in boxes, but the baseline is not maintained – it sits high. Character positions can be adjusted down, but then Word boxes clip the contents. Perhaps there is a better solution? I tried making it an equation, or using a minus character, but neither was really satisfactory. I’d like to hear about a better answer because, sadly, using LaTeX is not always viable.

Non-bresaking en rule in Word; results of stretching a hyphen.

Non-breaking en rule in Word; results of stretching a hyphen.

My Word.

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

2 responses to “Non-breaking en rule (en dash) in Microsoft Word… not really.”

  1. Al says :

    The minus sign that “2212” followed by Alt-x inserts looks exactly like an en-dash but is nonbreaking.

    • Darren says :

      Thanks!

      In some fonts the minus sits a little lower than an en, but yes it is very similar and sometimes identical. I think though that being able to group arbitrary characters into an unbreakable unit, like an \mbox{} can in LaTeX, would be a great general solution and a valuable addition to Word.

      Cheerio

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