Archive for July, 2014


Blue carrots? Editor required!

July 30, 2014

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently. Examples include:

  • they’re, their, and there
  • to, two, and too
  • raise, raze, and rays.

And then there’s carat, caret, and carrot:

  • ‘Carat’ is a measure of mass, and is typically associated with gemstones such as diamonds.
  • A ‘caret’ is an inverted ‘V’ character: ^. The other ‘V’ characters on the keyboard are known as angle brackets or ‘chevrons’ and look like this: < and >
  • And a ‘carrot’ is a root vegetable, typically orange (though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist too).

A good editor will know which word to use in which context, or, if in doubt, will check a dictionary to find out.

Which brings me to a PowerPoint presentation about some software being rolled out to tens of thousands of staff in a very large global company. In the PowerPoint presentation was this gem:

carrots Not only was the incorrect spelling used, but the incorrect word was used too. That symbol (which I’ve seen called all sorts of things, but NEVER a caret—let alone a carrot!) is sometimes known as a right arrow or a ‘chevron’ or an expand icon, or a ‘more information’ button.

Not a caret, and certainly not a blue carrot!


Really helpful user assistance… NOT!

July 28, 2014

I was on a car rental website and came across these inclusions, each with a friendly little ‘i’ for information icon.


So I clicked on the one for ‘Additional Liability Insurance’ to see what it meant, and got this gem:





Apostrophe abuse

July 27, 2014

Seen at my local shopping centre…

There’s ONE apostrophe on this sticker — there should be three — and it’s not even in the right place! How can they get it SO wrong?


(And if you’re not sure where all the apostrophes all go, it should read: “This is not my boyfriend’s car… it’s my Dad’s”. Also, instead of abbreviating “boyfriend” to “b’friend” to save space it would have been better to abbreviate “is not’ to “isn’t”, but I guess they didn’t know where to put the apostrophe!)


Word: Auto aligning header/footer info in portrait and landscape pages

July 25, 2014

I didn’t know you could do this!! Not until I read this article, anyway.

One of the annoyances with earlier versions of Word was what happened to left-, centre-, and right-aligned text in headers and footers when you inserted a landscape section. The workaround that many people used to control the placement was borderless tables in the headers/footers combined with ‘AutoFit to Window’.

Well, you don’t have to anymore! It seems this ‘new’ feature has been around since Word 2007, but I must have missed it.

Here’s how to set up a test document to show you how it works; it works the same for headers and footers — I only describe it for headers in these steps:

  1. Start a new (blank) Word document.
  2. Press Enter a couple of times to add some empty paragraphs.
  3. Insert a ‘Next Page’ section break (Page Layout tab > Breaks > Next Page).
  4. Press Enter a couple more times, then insert another Next Page section break. You should now have three blank pages in your test document.
  5. Place your cursor anywhere in page two prior to the section break, then make change this section to landscape orientation (Page Layout tab > Orientation > Landscape).
  6. Go back to page one and double-click in the header area to open the header/footer area.
  7. On the Header & Footer Tools > Design tab, click Insert Alignment Tab.
  8. On the Alignment Tab window, select Left then click OK. Leave all other settings as they are.
  9. Type some text in the header at the cursor position (e.g. ‘left align’).
  10. At the end of the text you just typed, click Insert Alignment Tab again.
  11. On the Alignment Tab window, select Center then click OK.
  12. Type some more text (e.g. ‘center align’). Look what happens — the text you just typed automatically goes to the center position in the header!
  13. At the end of the text you just typed, click Insert Alignment Tab again.
  14. On the Alignment Tab window, select Right then click OK.
  15. Type some more text (e.g. ‘right align’). The text you just typed automatically goes to the right position in the header.
  16. Now check what’s happened on page two — the text you just typed and the tabs you inserted using this method have automatically adjusted for the dimensions of the landscape page.
  17. Now go to page three — this is a portrait page, and the header text has readjusted back to suit that orientation.

Note: If you adjust the margins for the page, the header/footer text alignment also adjusts to suit.

Clever, huh?

See also:

[Link last checked July 2014]


Worst ‘char char’ ever?

July 24, 2014

Back in Word 2000 or Word 2003, ‘char char’ got added to style names. I still don’t know why or how. But with Word 2007 and later, they seem to be gone — mostly.

However, occasionally I see one in the wild (possibly brought in by copy/pasting from another organization’s document?)

This one would be one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time — it has 233 characters in it, including what look to be Thai characters (where did THEY come from?). You can only see the last part of the style name in the image below; the full text in the style name is: Caption,Caption Char Char Char Char Char Char Char,Caption Char1 Char,Caption Char1,อักขระ,Caption1 Char,Caption Char Char Char Char1 Char,Caption Char Char Char Char Char Char Char Char Char1 Char,Caption1 Char Char,Caption Char1 Ch




Natural synthetic? Really?

July 23, 2014

Spotted in the local hardware store:


Perhaps they meant ‘natural-looking synthetic grass mat’? But ‘natural synthetic’? It’s either natural or it’s synthetic — it can’t be both as these words are antonyms of each other.

On the side it at least says ‘lifelike’, but then says ‘soft & natural’.

Natural-looking and natural-feeling it may be, but ‘natural’ it’s not.


Dealing with spans of numbers and symbols related to numbers

July 22, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


Below is a scanned image of a page from the Australian Style Manual, detailing how to deal with spans of numbers and other numbering conventions (click on it to view it larger).


Some of the terms used on this page maybe unfamiliar to you, so here’s an explanation of those terms (plus some others), along with the Microsoft Word (for Windows) keyboard commands to insert them, where available.

Please note: Keyboard numerals and other keys with an asterisk (*) can ONLY be used on the numeric keypad, NOT the numbers across the top of the keyboard, and if there’s an Alt prefix, you must hold down the Alt key while pressing the numbers in sequence.


Term Looks like How to get it (menu) How to get it (keyboard) Notes
Hyphen, dash, subtraction (standard keys) (standard keys) Use a hyphen for separating hyphenated words, such as compound adjectives, e.g. five-year plan
En rule (also known as [aka] ‘en dash’), minus Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters tab Alt+0150 * or Ctrl+- * or type two hyphens immediately after a word (no spaces) followed by the next word Slightly longer than a hyphen; use for spans of numerals or words, e.g. 100–150 m, north–south orientation
Em rule (aka ‘em dash’) Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters tab Alt+0151 * or Ctrl+Alt+- *or type three hyphens immediately after a word (no spaces) followed by the next word Longer than an en dash; use instead of parentheses or commas for inserting extra information in a sentence; e.g. … The main vessels—the LMN and ABC—are considered…
Non-breaking space ° Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters tab Ctrl+Shift+<spacebar> Can only be seen if show formatting is turned on; looks like a degree symbol, but does NOT print; forces a value and its unit of measure to stay together even when a line wrap might normally separate them. Always use between values and their units of measure; e.g. 50 km.
Multiplication sign × Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Symbols tab: 3rd bottom row of (normal text) list Alt+0215 * You can use a lower or upper case ‘x’, but ‘x’ is not a true multiplication sign.
Division sign ÷ Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Symbols tab: bottom row of (normal text) list Alt+0247 * You can use a / to indicate division, but / can be used for other purposes, so use the division sign instead.
Plus/minus sign ± Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Symbols tab: 9th row of (normal text) list Alt+0177 * You can use +/- instead, though it’s not as neat as ±.
Superscript number m3 Home > Font > Superscript check box Ctrl+Shift+= Select the text to superscript, then apply the formatting. If you grab extra characters, either turn off the superscripting the same way, or press Ctrl+<spacebar> to return that text to its default.
Subscript number CO2 Home > Font > Subscript check box Ctrl+= As for superscripting (above)
Degree symbol ° Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Symbols tab: 9th row of (normal text) list (Word 2007 and 2010 at least) Alt+0176 * Be careful you don’t choose the symbol on the 10th row of the symbol list—the correct degree symbol is on the 9th row next to the ± sign.
Greater than or equal to (see instructions below this table) (see instructions below this table) Don’t use >=.
Less than or equal to (see instructions below this table) (see instructions below this table) Don’t use <=.
Micron/mu µ Insert > Symbol > More Symbols > Symbols tab: 9th row of (normal text) list Alt+0181 * Don’t use ‘u’.

For mathematical symbols such as ‘greater than or equal to’ (≥), there’s a setting you can turn on in Word that will convert characters such as >= to the correct symbol (i.e. ≥). It’s not turned on by default—you have to turn it on.

  1. Click the File tab (top left of the Word window).
  2. Click Options (near the bottom of the list on the left).
  3. Select Proofing on the left.
  4. Click the AutoCorrect Options button (top right).
  5. Select the Math AutoCorrect tab.
  6. Check the box to Use Math AutoCorrect rules outside of math regions. If you scroll down the list you can see what will be automatically converted—the ones for the ‘greater than or equal to’ example above are at the very end of the list.
  7. Click OK twice to exit Word Options.

(Note: These Word Options settings don’t carry across to Outlook or other Office programs, but you can turn this Math AutoCorrect setting on in Outlook the same way using Outlook’s Editor Options.)



July 21, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


Bottom line: Hyphen ‘rules’ are all over the place. So check first!

I use the online (Australian) Macquarie Dictionary all the time to check words while I’m editing. I check hyphenation far more often than spelling.

The ‘rules’ about when to use a hyphen or not are all over the place in the dictionary, the Australian Style Manual, etc. Before applying these ‘rules’, you need to know which words in the phrase are nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc., and who has time to remember all that (assuming you were taught it at school in the first place)?

Now there’s a ‘cheat sheet’ for you (if you can call a 10-page table a ‘cheat sheet’!), put out by the Chicago Manual of Style: (if this link doesn’t work for you, go to, search for ‘hyphenation’, then click the link for the PDF of the Hyphenation Table)

While this ‘cheat sheet’ is US-based, most of the ‘rules’ in this table also apply to the Australian situation; the Australian Style Manual and Macquarie Dictionary align with nearly all of them. However, there are some exceptions:

  • The Australian Style Manual says that compass points/directions are hyphenated (e.g. south-east).
  • Macquarie Dictionary and the Australian Style Manual have most ‘non’ words hyphenated.
  • ‘e’ words like ‘email’ are still slipping and sliding between being hyphenated or closed, with the recent trend to closed.

There are a few other minor differences in the examples given, such as ‘percent’ vs ‘per cent’ (Australian Style Manual preference), and ‘p.m.’ vs ‘pm’ (Australian Style Manual preference), and the reference to Webster’s Dictionary, whereas our [project’s] dictionary of choice is Macquarie. But in the main, this ‘cheat sheet’ should cover almost all situations that we come across in our documents.


  •  Snooks & Co. 2002. Style manual for authors, editors and printers. 6th ed. John Wiley and Sons/Commonwealth of Australia. (ISBN 0 7016 3648 3)
  • Macquarie Dictionary:

[Links last checked July 2014]


Word: Turn off Track Changes before updating fields

July 18, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


Try to remember to turn off track changes before you update any fields in your document. If you don’t, things like automated caption numbering, the table of contents, the list of tables/figures, automated cross-references, etc. will all show tracked changes.

If you forget, don’t panic! Turn off track changes and update the fields again—that will get rid of most of the field update track changes so you won’t have to accept/reject hundreds of them manually.

Hint: A quick and easy way to turn track changes on and off is by pressing Ctrl+Shift+E.


Word: Turn off ‘track formatting’ in Track Changes

July 17, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues…


Are all your formatting changes tracked when you have track changes in Word turned on?

Most of the time you don’t need these formatting balloons cluttering up your document and adding to your stress levels. Here’s how to turn off track formatting in Word 2007 and 2010 (Word 2013 and later is different), while still keeping track changes on for insertions/deletions etc.:

  1. Go to the Review tab > Track Changes drop-down arrow > Change Tracking Options.
  2. Clear the Track Formatting check box, then click OK.



To turn off track formatting for all documents, you need to use a macro. Details: