This tutorial shows three ways to insert special characters in Microsoft Word:
Word’s special characters include twelve text characters, such as the en dash, that don’t appear on traditional keyboards and fifteen formatting characters, such as the nonbreaking hyphen, that affect text layout. The table below lists all twenty-seven special characters.
Special Characters in Microsoft Word
|1. Em Dash||10. Registered Symbol||19. No-Width Optional Break|
|2. En Dash||11. Trademark||20. No-Width Non Break|
|3. Nonbreaking Hyphen||12. Section Break||21. Left-to-Right Mark|
|4. Optional Hyphen||13. Paragraph Break||22. Right-to-Left Mark|
|5. Em Space||14. Ellipsis||23. Left-to-Right Embedding|
|6. En Space||15. Single Opening Quote||24. Right-to-Left Embedding|
|7. 1/4 Em Space||16. Single Closing Quote||25. Left-to-Right Override|
|8. Nonbreaking Space||17. Double Opening Quote||26. Right-to-Left Override|
|9. Copyright Symbol||18. Double Closing Quote||27. Pop Directional Formatting|
For a description of each character, visit “What Are Special Characters in Microsoft Word?”
If you want to insert accent marks (the extra marks that appear above and below letters) instead of special characters, visit “Three Ways to Insert Accent Marks in Microsoft Word.”
This tutorial is also available as a YouTube video showing all the steps in real time.
Watch more than 100 writing-related software tutorials on my YouTube channel.
The images below are from Word for Microsoft 365. The steps are the same for Word 2021, Word 2019, and Word 2016, and are similar for Word 2013 and Word 2010.
Insert Special Characters Using the Symbol Dialog Box
All twenty-seven special characters can be inserted using the Symbol dialog box.
1. Place your cursor where the special character should be inserted in your text.
2. Select the Insert tab in the ribbon.
3. Select Symbols in the Symbols group.
4. Select More Symbols in the drop-down menu.
5. Select the Special Characters tab in the Symbol dialog box.
6. Select the special character that you need from the Character menu.
7. Select the Insert button to insert the special character.
8. Select the Close button to close the Symbol dialog box.
Pro Tip: If the Symbol dialog box blocks your view of your newly inserted special character, left-click your mouse arrow on the uppermost area of the dialog box to grab it and then move it to a different location on your screen.
Insert Special Characters Using Keyboard Shortcuts
Thirteen special characters can be inserted with preset keyboard shortcuts.
Please note that the shortcuts shown below for the Double Opening Quote and Double Closing Quote are different than those shown in Word’s Symbol dialog box (which may be typos because they don’t function as intended).
1. Place your cursor where the special character should be inserted.
2. Select the appropriate key combination on your keyboard.
Em Dash: Alt + Ctrl + Num –
(Alt plus Ctrl plus the minus sign on the number pad)
En Dash: Ctrl + Num –
(Ctrl plus the minus sign on the number pad)
Nonbreaking Hyphen: Ctrl + Shift + _
(Ctrl plus Shift plus underscore)
Optional Hyphen: Ctrl + –
(Ctrl plus hyphen)
Nonbreaking Space: Ctrl + Shift + Spacebar
Copyright: Alt + Ctrl + C
Registered: Alt + Ctrl + R
Trademark: Alt + Ctrl + T
Ellipsis: Alt + Ctrl + .
(Alt plus Ctrl plus period)
Single Opening Quote: Ctrl + `,`
(Ctrl plus two grave accents)
Single Closing Quote: Ctrl + ‘,’
(Ctrl plus two single quotation marks)
Double Opening Quote: Ctrl + ` , Shift + ‘
(Ctrl plus one grave accent followed by Shift plus one single quotation mark)
Double Closing Quote: Ctrl + ‘, Shift + ‘
(Ctrl plus one single quotation mark followed by Shift plus one single quotation mark)
Insert (a Few) Special Characters Using AutoCorrect
Word’s preset AutoCorrect feature lets you insert the copyright symbol, trademark symbol, registered mark, and en dash by typing specific character strings into your text.
The en dash won’t appear automatically until you complete the next word or character string and then press the spacebar.
Pro Tips: Select Ctrl + Z to reject an autocorrected character. You can also customize Word’s autocorrect options in the Proofing section of the Word Options dialog box.
Further Reading: How to Find and Replace Special Characters in Microsoft Word
Updated November 14, 2021