Archive for November, 2012


Points, picas, inches, and millimetres

November 27, 2012

On p47 of Just my type (, Simon Garfield provides some math related to points, picas, inches and millimetres:

The point size can be used both as a unit of measuring type and the space between it. For regular newspaper and book text, 8pt to 12pt usually satisfies.There are 72pts to an inch. 1pt is 0.013833 inches. Typographers group them in picas: 12pts to a pica and 6 picas to an inch. There have been many historical and national variations, and metal and digital measures differ slightly, but today we almost have and international standard: in the US, 1pt = 0.351mm; in Europe 1pt – 0.376mm.

He goes on to say:

But the maths, geography and vocabulary of type should never obscure the most basic fact of all: regular or italics, light or bold, upper or lower case — the fonts that work best are the ones that allow us to read without ruining our eyes.

(my emphasis)

See also:

[Links last checked November 2012]


Book recommendation: Just my type

November 26, 2012

I haven’t done a book recommendation for ages, probably because I’ve been reading quite a lot of fiction recently and listening to general non-fiction audio books (such as those by Malcolm Gladwell) on my daily 40-minute walk.

However, a good friend recommended Just my type (by Simon Garfield) to me and I’m so glad he did.

What a terrific read! The subject matter (fonts and typefaces) sounds very dry and boring, but this book is any but. It is a delightful romp through typeface history from Gutenberg to just a year or so ago, and offers insights into some of the very human emotions associated with people who are passionate about their profession/vocation.

Garfield writes in such an engaging and entertaining manner that you don’t need to know much at all about fonts to learn something from his book. He covers fonts from Arial to Zipf and many fonts in between, particularly those we see on our computers every day.

I particularly loved Chapter 11 (DIY) where he gave a brief overview of the days of letter stamps, Letraset, IBM golf ball typewriters, Dymo label makers etc. — almost all of which I used in the 70s and 80s and even into the early 90s before I got my first computer.

This book stays with you — since reading it, I’ve really been noticing the types of fonts used for TV/movie credits, on signs, in advertising, logos, etc.

A great read that I highly recommend.


White listing a URL in Trend Worry-Free Business Security

November 23, 2012

These instructions are for me — if they help someone else, well and good, but they are really a brain dump for me in case I have to do this again.

To whitelist/allow a URL that Trend Micro Worry-Free Security is blocking:

  1. Log in to the server.
  2. Open Trend Micros Worry-Free Security console.
  3. Go to Preferences > Global Settings.
  4. Select the Desktop/Server tab.
  5. Scroll down to the URL Filtering section.
  6. Type the URL in the URLs to approve box.
  7. Click Add.
  8. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
  9. Click Save.
  10. Close the Trend console and log out of the server.

It may take five to ten minutes for this new policy to cascade to the client computers.


A light-hearted look at how punctuation can change meaning

November 22, 2012

Based on a recent ‘Writing Tip’ I wrote for my work colleagues.


Bottom Line:

  • Lack—or overuse—of punctuation (especially commas) can alter meaning and/or result in ambiguity.
  • Ambiguous sentences are hard to understand and can be misinterpreted, thus potentially putting lives at risk.

I’ve written about commas previously (see the information on serial/Oxford commas in lists:, so this time I’ll use some light-hearted examples found on the internet about how commas and other punctuation can change meaning.

Example 1:

“Most of the time, travellers worry about their luggage.”

Now delete the comma after the fourth word to totally change the meaning of this sentence:

“Most of the time travellers worry about their luggage”

Example 2:

“Stop clubbing baby seals”

And with a comma added you get this:

Example 3:

Here’s how the magazine printed the headline:

She cooks her family and her dog (yes, the dog looks worried!)??? I think they meant “…finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.”

Example 4:

Importance of a comma

Example 5:

It’s not just the addition or lack of commas that can change meaning. This example shows how the placement of punctuation, such as full stops/periods, commas, and question marks, can turn something that seems loving and innocent into something more sinister:

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is all about.

You are generous, kind, thoughtful.

People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me for other men.

I yearn for you.

I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart.

I can be forever happy.

Will you let me be yours?


Now let’s see how those same words read with the punctuation in different places:

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is.

All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you.

Admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me.

For other men, I yearn.

For you, I have no feelings whatsoever.

When we’re apart, I can be forever happy.

Will you let me be?



Example 6


That first period (full stop) changes everything.

Example 7


Commas. Use them. No need to say any more… though the ‘Forgetfulness headache’ might be a cause for concern.

On a more serious note…

While these examples are humorous, they also apply to the words that you write. For example:

No commas:

This initial workshop identified the work scopes and phasing generated several different sourcing strategies for those work scopes and proposed selection criteria to compare the sourcing strategies to best benefit the [project].

Commas added (option 1 – single comma after ‘work scopes’):

This initial workshop identified the work scopes, and phasing generated several different sourcing strategies for those work scopes and proposed selection criteria to compare the sourcing strategies to best benefit the [project].

Commas added (option 2 – multiple commas to separate phrases related to the workshop’s outcomes):

This initial workshop identified the work scopes and phasing, generated several different sourcing strategies for those work scopes, and proposed selection criteria to compare the sourcing strategies to best benefit the [project].

It’s likely that the final example was what the author meant, but a reader who wasn’t at the workshop can only guess as to what happened there. If the author had added commas, the meaning would be clear and unambiguous to any reader who didn’t attend the workshop.


Word 2010: Keyboard shortcut to paste unformatted text

November 21, 2012

In Word 2003 and 2007, you couldn’t easily paste copied text as unformatted text. You either had to go through several clicks in the menus, or set up a macro and assign a keyboard shortcut to it (see this blog post for how to do this in Word 2003/2007:

However, in Word 2010 you don’t have to do any of that as there’s a quick and easy way to paste as unformatted text using the keyboard. Laura alerted me to it in her 13 November 2012 comment on the Word 2003/2007 post above, and, with some more help a few days later from Xuberi, I finally got it!

To paste copied text as unformatted text in Word 2010 using the keyboard:

  1. Press Ctrl+v to paste the copied text into your document.
  2. Press and then release Ctrl to activate the Paste Options icon.
  3. Press t to select the ‘Text only’ option (pressing t is a separate action to pressing Ctrl in step 2 — DO NOT press them together otherwise it won’t work).

More detailed explanation:

What happens in Word 2010 when you press Ctrl+v (Step 1) is that you get the Paste Options icon, and it has (Ctrl) next to it, indicating that the Ctrl key activates the options (you don’t get this in Word 2003 or 2007):

So when you press and release Ctrl (step 2 above), the Paste Options display:

Now you press the key for the paste option you want — hover over each option’s icon to see which key activates it:

The keyboard options are:

  • H — Use destination theme
  • K — Keep source formatting
  • M — Merge formatting
  • T — Keep text only (the unformatted text option).

See also:

[Links last checked November 2012]


What’s going on in India?

November 19, 2012

I haven’t applied for a Visa for another country in years (Australians typically go into the US under the Visa Waiver scheme, and my recent trip to Bali involved purchasing a 30-day Indonesian Visa at Denpasar Airport after I landed in Bali), so maybe the Sex option on the form below is now common for all countries, not just India.

One of my clients sent the link to the online application form to me — he travels a lot and to lots of out-of-the-way countries in deepest darkest Africa etc., but even he said that he’s never seen an option like this on a Visa application form.


Day, night, anytime: Time and date formats

November 18, 2012

Based on a writing tip I recently sent out to my (Australian) work colleagues.


In this week’s writing tip I deal with times and dates and how to write them so that their meaning is clear and unambiguous to all readers. I’ve taken most of this information from our style authority, the most recent Australian Style Manual: For authors, editors and printers (6th ed, John Wiley & Sons, 2002)

Bottom line:

  • 24-hour time: four numerals only, no punctuation, no spaces (e.g. 1712)
  • 12-hour time: include am or pm, separate hours and minutes with a full stop (e.g. 9.30 am), use noon and midnight instead of the ambiguous 12 am or 12 pm
  • Avoid bi as a time frequency – use other words to say what you mean
  • Write dates in this order: day (numeral) month (word) year (numeral), with no punctuation e.g. 4 September 2012

Time formats

The Style Manual (p172-173) has:

  • 24-hour time: examples: 1700, 2318 etc. (‘Four digits are always used, the first two showing the hours and the last two the minutes. Neither punctuation nor space is inserted. Where more precise times that include decimal fractions of seconds are being expressed, colons can be used as the separator [as recommended by ISO 8601:2000]. For example: 23:59:17.’)
  • 12-hour time: examples: 5 am, 9.00 am, 7 pm, 10.15 pm etc. (‘…present am and pm in lower case … The use of full stops between these abbreviated words [a.m. and p.m.] is declining and, because they are always preceded by a numeral, they can be treated like other symbols associated with numerals, which are unpunctuated. A full stop should be used to separate the hours from the minutes. Two zeros may be used to indicate even hours but are not essential [i.e. 5 am or 5.00 am are both correct].’
  • The special case of noon and midnight: ‘Under the twelve-hour system, practice differs on the presentation of noon and midnight. Where confusion could be caused by using 12 am or 12 pm, it is preferable to use the terms noon and midnight. Thereafter, 12.01 pm refers to the beginning of the afternoon, and 12.01 am to the early morning.’

Date formats

The Style Manual (p170-171) has:

‘… dates are best presented using numerals for the day and year but with the name of the month … in full.’ Thus: 4 September 2012 (‘This structure is unambiguous, requires no punctuation, and progresses logically from day to month to year […] and requires fewer keystrokes.’)

Unacceptable date formats include:

  • the 4th of September, 2012
  • 4th September, 2012
  • September 4th, 2012
  • September 4, 2012
  • 4 Sep 12 (unless space is very limited, such as in a table cell)
  • 4/9/2012 (this format is the LEAST ACCEPTABLE as it will be read by US readers as 9 April 2012. The Style Manual [p171] says: ‘All-numeral forms of dates can mislead because international practice varies, so ISO 8601:2000 should be followed in documents for wide distribution.’ [Note: ISO 8601:2000 specifies writing all-numeral dates in YYYYMMDD format, so 4 September 2012 would be 20120904; see also:]),

Words related to time

The special case of ‘bi’ words (Style Manual, p173): ‘Most prefixes that can be attached to an expression of time to indicate frequency are unambiguous—for example, tercentenary and triennial. But the prefix ‘bi’ poses problems, because it means both ‘two’ and ‘twice a …’; so bimonthly can mean either ‘every two months’ or ‘twice a month’. It is better to use more specific alternatives in place of this prefix, such as ‘twice weekly’ or ‘fortnightly’, or ‘twice monthly’ or ‘every two months’. In contrast, biannual and biennial each have one meaning only: respectively, ‘twice a year’ and ‘every two years’. Nevertheless they are often misunderstood, and so should only be used in contexts where their meaning can be made clear.’

And just to keep you on your toes, other time-related words are treated in various—sometimes conflicting—ways in the Macquarie Dictionary. For example:

  • afternoon and daytime (no hyphens/spaces) compared to night-time (hyphenated)
  • night shift and day shift (both separated by a space)
  • midnight, midday, and midafternoon (no hyphens/spaces)

[Link last checked November 2012]


Awww… Cute 404 message

November 16, 2012

Our State’s Department of Environment and Conservation has recently updated its website, so all it’s arcane URLs (you know, the ones with heaps of numbers and gobbledygook in them that made no sense at all — see under the Search box n the image below for the original URL) have gone and been replaced with readable and understandable URLs (yay!). So when I went in via a bookmarked URL, I got a 404 message.

It was too cute not to share ;-) (though it would’ve been better had they done some sort of redirect instead of me having to hunt out the page again — it’s not the page had been revamped so dramatically that it was radically different; it just had a readable URL now).

It’s still a cute 404 message.


Word: Number of rows and/or columns in a table

November 12, 2012

Jeff wanted to know how to find out how many rows he had in a very long table in his Word document. Word Count doesn’t tell you — it tells you how many lines in the document, but each cell (except one) in a table is treated as a ‘line’ for Word Count purposes.

You can find out how many rows (and/or columns) there are in an individual table by checking the table properties. Here’s how:

  1. Select the entire table. This selects all rows and columns.
  2. Right-click on the selected table and select Table Properties from the shortcut menu.
  3. Click on the Row tab — the number of rows selected is listed at the top of the dialog box.
  4. Click on the Column tab — the number of columns selected is listed at the top of the dialog box.
  5. Click Cancel to close the Table Properties dialog box.

NOTE 1: If you now select another table to check its number of rows and columns, you may find that when the Table Dialog box opens to the last-viewed tab (Row or Columns), no numbers are displayed. Just go back to the Table tab, then click the Row or Column tab again and the number should display. If it doesn’t, save and close the document, then close Word. Reopen the document and try it again (see my comment dated 17 December 2022).

NOTE 2: Merged cells are mostly treated as though the rows and columns existed as they did when the table was first created. However, if you’ve merged all the cells from several adjacent rows, the row count will reduce.


Learned vs learnt

November 9, 2012

Based on a writing tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


This week’s writing tip is the result of a question that Michael asked – is it ‘lessons learned’ or ‘lessons learnt’? Good question, Michael!

Bottom line:

  • Use your main dictionary authority for guidance (Macquarie Dictionary is our [project] authority, and it only uses ‘learnt’ as the past tense of the verb ‘learn’)
  • Know your audience – are they predominantly American (‘learned’) or Australian (‘learnt’)?
  • ‘Lessons learnt’ is the correct form for documents that will predominantly be read by Australian readers.

The issue of using ‘t’ or ‘ed’ as the past tense ending of certain verbs is a curly one, and tends to divide according to whether you were taught British/Australian (‘t) or US (‘ed’) English. Some examples of these irregular verb form endings include ‘burned’/‘burnt’, ‘spelled’/’spelt’, ‘dreamed’/’dreamt’, ‘spilled’/’spilt’, and the one that we use most often in our documents – ‘learned’/’learnt’.

Macquarie Dictionary has this to say about ‘learnt’ and ‘learned’:

‘learnt’: verb a past tense and past participle of learn


adjective 1. having much knowledge gained by study; scholarly: a group of learned scholars.

2. of or showing learning.

3. (applied as a term of courtesy to a member of the legal profession): my learned friend.

Note: Macquarie Dictionary has NO definition for ‘learned’ as a verb, irregular or otherwise.

So, for documents that will predominantly be read by Australian readers, ‘lessons learnt’ is the correct form.

See also:

[Links last checked November 2012]