When people go into writing or journalism, they tend to get a bit creative (or obnoxious) with punctuation marks. But there’s one punctuation mark that has a bizarre hold on writers—the humble em dash. And after years of waiting, Google Docs now automatically turns strings of hyphens into em dashes and en dashes.
Yes, Microsoft Word implemented this feature over a decade ago. I don’t know why it took Google Docs so long to catch up, and frankly, I don’t care. I’m just happy to see the annoying-yet-beautiful em dash get some love. In fact, I’m going to use an em dash right now to celebrate—doesn’t it make me look so professional?
— Google Docs (@googledocs) December 15, 2021
Just to be clear, Google Docs won’t tell you when you’re misusing the em dash. But writers and journalists use it wrong all the time—see, I think I used it wrong just now. (Fine, let’s do a quick grammar lesson. An em dash is similar to a semicolon; both punctuation marks create a pause in a sentence. The difference is that an em dash separates a sentence into two distinct ideas, but a semicolon is like the glue that combines two ideas into one.)
As for the smaller en dash, who cares? I don’t need a fancy punctuation mark to denote a range of numbers; I can just say “it costs $10 to $15.” But hey, if you want to use an en dash in Google Docs, you can now type “it costs $10–$15.” Knock yourself out.