Archive for June, 2014


Word: Adding a list of tables, figures for a section

June 30, 2014

Following on from the instructions I wrote for adding a mini TOC to a section in Word, I found a way to also add a mini list of tables and figures for the tables and figures in a specific section. It requires that you’ve assigned a unique bookmark name for each section, as described in the earlier article, so make sure you do that first.

Once you’ve assigned a bookmark to each section (e.g. Section01, Section02, Section03, etc.), you can add your lists of tables and figures at the beginning of the section based on that bookmark.

The field codes you’ll use are:

  • For a list of tables in the section: TOC \h \z \c “Table” \b SectionXX
  • For a list of figures in the section: TOC \h \z \c “Figure” \b SectionXX

where SectionXX is the bookmark name for the section.

I had to figure this out for an 880-page Word document with some 18 sections and hundreds of tables and figures. The client wanted a consolidated main TOC at the beginning and a mini TOC and list of tables and figures for each section at the beginning of each section. It worked well! And as a bonus, all these lists were clickable links in the resulting PDF.

The only downside is that whenever you update all fields in the document, you’ll get asked to update many tables of contents and lists of figures too — I think I had to select ‘update entire’ and click OK about 50 times! But it was a small price to pay for meeting the client’s expectations.


Just the tables and figures for Section 5


PDF: Table borders not showing

June 27, 2014

In the past few days, I’ve had several calls or emails from work colleagues about some table border lines not displaying in a PDF created from a Word document. This only happens on some tables, not all, and only for some horizontal borders, not all. I recall this issue from many years ago, and searching Google (see the links below) shows that it’s been around since at least 2004!


  • The table in Word still has all its borders.
  • The same table in the PDF is missing one or more horizontal borders – perhaps the top border of the table, or the bottom border where the table breaks across the page to the next page.

Invariably, it’s not Word that’s at fault here, but the PDF and how it displays. You can prove this by:

  • printing the PDF page the table is on – it usually prints fine, with all borders intact
  • zooming in on the PDF (e.g. 400% or more) – you’ll see the border, proving that it’s there.

I tried some of the simpler suggested solutions in those links and found one that worked, and that has now worked for those people who contacted me.

NOTE: If you have both Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat X (Standard or Pro) installed, you’ll have to do these steps in BOTH software applications – search for ‘Adobe’ on your Start button to find out which one(s) you have installed.

  1. Open Adobe Reader and/or Acrobat X Standard/Pro.
  2. Go to Edit > Preferences.
  3. Select Page Display on the left.
  4. Clear the check box for Enhance thin lines (it’s checked by default – you have to turn it off).
  5. Save your settings.
  6. Now view the PDF – the missing table borders should now display.



Articles that discuss this table border issue in PDFs:

[Links last checked June 2014]


Installing Acrobat XI Pro just worked…

June 20, 2014

After berating Adobe over many years — for their complex installation processes, their unfair pricing to non-US customers, etc. — I bit the bullet and purchased an upgrade from Acrobat 9 Pro to Acrobat XI Pro. I did this with some trepidation as this has NEVER gone well for me before.

My initial feelings about Adobe weren’t helped by the steps you have to go through to actually find a place on their website to purchase an upgrade and a downloadable one at that (yes, you click the button for buying a monthly subscription for Creative Cloud and then you get to pages where you can narrow that down and choose upgrades etc. Not at all intuitive…). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Australian price for the upgrade (AU$239) wasn’t too far different from the US price (US$199), though there was an ‘end of financial year discount’ on at the time, so the real price for Australians is about $280.

I added the downloadable upgrade to my cart and clicked Checkout. Nothing happened. Nor after clicking it several times. I thought perhaps I needed to sign in, so I tried that and got caught up in an endless loop of Adobe trying to find my details (spinning wheel of death in Firefox for more than 20 minutes before I closed the web page). I tried this a few times, with no different result. This was not looking good for Adobe and my feelings about them… So I left it for a couple of days until I had time to talk to the sales reps on the 1800 number listed on the Australian shopping cart web page.

Deep breath… The friendly sales person suggested I clear my cookies or use a different browser, so I opened up my rarely used Chrome and was able to complete the transaction. Yay!

The download process is still pretty clumsy as there’s a download installer you have to install first (which Windows Firewall wanted to block), then the actual download, then the file extraction, then the installation of the files, then the installation of Acrobat XI Pro – all up this took about 30 minutes. And once it’s installed, you have to reboot your computer (no big deal).

Next step was to test that the Acrobat tab was added to Office 2010 (it was) and to create a PDF from a Word document. I got more messages about licensing and registration and activation, and was taken to Adobe’s website to check my profile information, though there was nothing about activation or registration I could see.

So I tried creating a PDF from a Word 2010 document again, and got another message about the product not being activated! Uh oh… I went to the About menu in Acrobat where there was an option for ‘deactivating’, leading me to assume it was activated. There was also another option for registration, so I clicked on that and found more stuff related to my profile and orders. Yep, my order was listed. Back to Acrobat to try printing a PDF (worked), scanning from my printer/scanner to PDF (worked) and then creating a PDF from the Acrobat tab in Word 2010 — finally it worked without an error message, so I guess somewhere in there or behind the scenes Acrobat activated itself remotely.

Yes, the process was quite clumsy (and not at all friendly for newcomers to Acrobat/Adobe), but the price was reasonably within range of the US price, and once the behind-the-scenes activation happened, it just worked.

And for that I’m very grateful as I expected an angry day on the phone to Adobe Support.

Now if only they could get Flash to work with Firefox…


Superscript note identifiers: Inside or outside punctuation?

June 12, 2014

Alexa asked about the placement of superscripted footnote indicators in relation to punctuation:

Example A: Mackerel are pelagic;10 living near the surface… OR  Mackerel are pelagic10; living near the surface… (i.e. does the ’10’ come after or before the the semicolon?)

Example B:  …vertical magenta stripes on the body.9, 11, 13 OR …vertical magenta stripes on the body9, 11, 13. (i.e. do the note identifiers come before or after the period/full stop?)

As Alexa is in Australia and is writing for an Australian audience, I consulted the Australian Style Manual (6th edition) for guidance.

The Australian Style Manual says this (p209):

Place superscript note identifiers:

  • At the end of a sentence or clause, rather than immediately after the words to which they relate
  • Before all punctuation marks save the end-of-sentence ones
  • Wherever possible, immediately after direct quotations.

Avoid using superscript note identifiers in headings.

My interpretation:

Bullet 2 of the Style Manual‘s guidance is the most relevant one to these examples. Following that guidance, in Example A you’d place the note identifier BEFORE the semicolon (i.e. …pelagic10; …) and in Example B, you’d place the note identifier after the full stop (i.e. …the body.9, 11, 13 ).

I also looked up other style guides. Some of the American style guides give similar advice; others differ.

So my advice to Alexa was to go with the Australian Style Manual’s guidance in this instance as her audience is Australian.


Flash Player v Firefox

June 11, 2014

I’m fed up with Adobe’s Flash player and Firefox not playing well together. Flash Player continually crashes, causing Firefox to not respond for a short period, then you have to reload the page where Flash crashed. Adobe sends out many Flash Player updates and Firefox gets updated regularly too, though nowhere near as often as Flash. I don’t know which company’s environment doesn’t like the other. And I don’t care. I would just like them to play nice together in the sandbox, but they don’t seem capable of that. This has been going on for months, if not a year or more. And I’m heartily sick of it. Yes, I use Chrome for some things, and IE for others, but Firefox is my browser of choice.

All this is a preamble to what has to be the longest error message I’ve ever seen as a result of a Flash crash. I’ve reduced the size of it to show how long the string is — a string of garbled letters and numbers, no doubt for security purposes. I would guess only a computer could interpret it. You sure wouldn’t want to have to read the error message over the phone to a human as the possibilities for getting it wrong are enormous.

Click the image to view it larger, if you dare!




Bi- or semi-: What’s the difference?

June 6, 2014

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


D from Houston commented… “A recommendation for a future mailing: ‘bi-‘ vs. ‘semi-‘ …  in terms like biweekly and bimonthly (or biannual vs semi-annual)…”

I had to look up these prefixes, D, and you’re right – they are very ambiguous and very open to misinterpretation, especially in relation to time. In fact, in the case of ‘bi’ they can mean two very different things.

In essence:

  • Bi can mean ‘two’ OR ‘twice’; e.g. ‘biweekly’ can mean every two weeks (i.e. 26 times in a year) but it can also mean ‘twice a week’ (i.e. 104 times a year); similarly, ‘bimonthly’ can mean twice a month (i.e. 24 times in a year) or every two months (i.e. 6 times a year). What a difference this could make to mortgage payments…
  • Semi means ‘half’, so semimonthly is twice a month and semiweekly is twice a week.

The best option is to avoid ‘bi’ and ‘semi’ words where possible. Instead, be specific and clear – use ‘twice a week’, ‘twice a month’, ‘every two weeks’, ‘every six months’, ‘every two years’ etc. to remove any possibility of ambiguity.

Note to Australians: ‘Fortnight’ is not commonly used in the US, so if you are writing for a US audience, avoid this word and use ‘every two weeks’ instead.

See also:

[Links last checked June 2014]



When government departments don’t check their own work

June 5, 2014

One of the documents my authors cite and reference regularly is an Australian federal government plan for a designated marine region of Australia.

This plan was written by a federal government department in 2008 and I would imagine it went through many internal hands and stakeholders’ hands before being signed off by the Minister for the Environment at the time.

So why, oh why, did a fundamental and glaring error of fact slip through all those checks and balances? It’s in the map below, and yes, that fuzziness is in the original report (it’s on p35 of


For those of you not familiar with Australia, here the errors I noticed on first seeing this map:

  • This one is the worst error! Timor-Leste (i.e. East Timor) is NOT part of Australia. It is a separate country located on an island north-west of Darwin (approx. where ‘OP’ is pointing on the map), not in the desert between Darwin and Alice Springs! This is the worst of the errors as it’s just plain wrong.
  • Sumatra and Java are islands in Indonesia, not separate countries as implied by the map. These labels might be acceptable IF ‘Indonesia’ was not also plainly labelled on the island of New Guinea (top right corner). As an editor, I would have queried this naming inconsistency.
  • South Indian Current: I haven’t found much reference to this name. ‘South Indian Ocean Current’, yes, but not ‘South Indian Current’. Its location would be more indicative of ‘Southern Indian Ocean’. As an editor, I would have queried this.
  • I would have also queried the clarity of this image as it’s very poor.

There’s just no excuse for these sorts of error, or for the poor quality of the map’s reproduction in the PDF. If they can’t afford full-time editors, there are plenty of contractors they could hire for one-off reports like these.

[Link last checked June 2014]


Should you hyphenate words with prefixes?

June 4, 2014

Based on a recent Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues: Should you hyphenate words with prefixes or not?


As with other forms of hyphenation, the application of any ‘rules’ varies greatly and there are NO firm guidelines. Even in the same dictionary and for the same prefix, you can see every variation from two words separated by a space, to hyphenated, to closed (i.e. where the two words have become one).

Below is a table of some prefixes I checked in The Macquarie Dictionary (Australian). This is not a comprehensive list, and I would advise that you consult the dictionary for usage for a specific word.

How The Macquarie Dictionary deals with prefixed words

Prefix Hyphenated No hyphen My summary of Macquarie’s treatment
Bi bi-fold, bi-racial bilateral, biweekly, bimonthly, biannual, bilinear Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words
Bio bio-assay bioengineering, biohazard, biosafety, bioaccumulate, biochemical, biodiversity Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words
Macro macro-economic macrocosm, macronutrient, macrobiotic, macroclimate, macrofauna Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words
Micro micro-economic, micro-meteorology microorganism, microcosm, microgram, microcomputer, microanalysis, microfauna Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words
Multi multi-tasking, multi-user multigrain, multiskilling, multicellular, multifaceted Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words
Non non-resident, non-essential, non-government nonlethal, nonferrous Most are hyphenated, but check dictionary as no definite pattern
Re re-create, re-assess recreate, reprint, reroute ALWAYS check these as meaning can change with/without hyphen (e.g. re-create/recreate, re-petition/repetition, re-present/represent)
Self selfaccusation (n), selfrepresentation (n) self-accusatory (adj), self-stabilising (adj), self-funded (n)/self-funding (adj), self-examination (n) Most nouns are closed, most adjectives are hyphenated, but check dictionary as there’s much variation
Semi semi-absorbent, semi-arid, semi-formal, semi-government semifinal, semitropical, semiannual, semipermanent Very few have a hyphen; most are closed words


What the Australian Style Manual says

The Australian Style Manual (Snooks 2002) has this to say (p88-90; my emphasis):

‘There are few firm rules regarding hyphens, and dictionaries are often in disagreement. In general, British dictionaries are more inclined to hyphenate words than their American counterparts; the Macquarie and Australian Oxford dictionaries lie somewhere between the two. This divergence in practice means there are no simple rights or wrongs in this aspect of word punctuation. … the main concern should be to retain consistency throughout a document … choose one dictionary and stick to its hyphenation practices…

‘Hyphens can be an important device to avoid ambiguity, but [don’t] overuse them. …[Decide] whether or not to use a hyphen…based on the context in which the words appear.’

Grammar Girl’s opinion

See also

Some of my blog posts on the hyphenation issue from a few years ago:

[Links last checked June 2014]