Jeremy Stein - Brain

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Word Cursor Horizontal

In Microsoft Word 2003, I typed Ctrl-Alt-Hyphen to insert an optional hyphen. What happened was that my mouse cursor changed to a horizontal line (like a big minus sign). It worked normally in the document, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it back to the normal cursor. When I went to Insert > Symbol to find the correct keyboard shortcut for the optional hyphen, nothing happened. When I tried again, the Symbol option was missing from the Insert menu. I had to re-add by customizing my menu bar.

Eventually I figured out that Ctrl-Alt-Hyphen is the shortcut for a special cursor that deletes menu items. From what I’ve read, this is supposed to be useful for deleting recently used files from the Files menu. It seems less useful in the unpleasant situation I encountered. When that key combination is pressed accidentally, the user is faced with a strange cursor. As the user clicks through the menus to figure out how to change it, it deletes the menu option (without even a warning). For the most part, I think Microsoft Word is a great product, but this is a really dangerous feature.

The simple way to return to a regular cursor is to press escape.

Google assistance: Help, my mouse pointer changed to a dash! Mouse icon shape is a hyphen.

May 6, 2005 4 Comments.


  1. Fernando Leal replied:

    Your comment was most useful to me, for I fell into this trap and inadvertently erased my Insert Symbol menu option. Only I haven’t been able to restore it. I tried to re-customize the Insert menu as you suggested but the most I got was to insert an Omega sign into the menu bar. Can you tell me exactly what one has to do to re-install the Insert Symbol menu option? Thanks a lot in advance.

    July 16th, 2006 at 6:53 am. Permalink.

  2. Jeremy replied:

    To restore your Insert menu, go to the Tools menu and click Customize. This will make a dialog box appear. Ignore the dialog box and right-click on the Insert menu and select Reset. Then close the dialog box. You should now have the original Insert menu.

    July 17th, 2006 at 8:12 am. Permalink.

  3. Church replied:

    Thank you. ESCAPE worked to bring back the cursor.

    September 11th, 2013 at 6:49 pm. Permalink.

  4. CBO replied:

    Very helpful. I have been using word for over 20 years and never had this happen – till today. I’d forgotten how to make an optional hyphen and thought it was ctrl-alt hyphen. Got the same thing as you describe and your solution worked. Thanks for posting this.

    April 7th, 2014 at 2:15 pm. Permalink.

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