Archive for September, 2020


What an editor does

September 29, 2020

Spotted in a Facebook editors’ group, with no attribution, unfortunately. Thanks to the person who put this together. My daily work life is definitely the bottom right image!

What my friends think I do: image of Words with Friends game; What my Mom things I do: image of a person with glasses in business attire marking up a piece of paper they're holding; What writers think I do: image of an angry person ripping up paper; What society thinks I do: image of a McDonalds 'Drive Thru' sign changed to 'Drive Through'; What I really do: image of a heavily marked up Word document with track changes and comments visible



Word: Large table won’t sort properly and other issues

September 28, 2020

My husband has an 80-page table in Word (don’t ask! yes, one table, about 7 columns, lots of tabular data, and in 7-point font size zoomed in to 150%) that he needs to sort in all sorts of different ways at various times. He was complaining that it wouldn’t sort properly and that when he selected the whole table to sort or do a find/replace, the table would move to another location in the document as evidenced by the first Undo command being the option choice to undo the move.

I watched exactly what he did—he selected the table using the mouse by clicking on the little grid selection icon at the top left of it, clicked the Sort icon on the Home tab, specified the sort order, then clicked OK. He rarely uses any keyboard commands, so only the mouse was used for all this.

First, the sort order that results didn’t match up with what he wanted. He wanted to sort by column 1, which had 4-digit years. The first date listed in the sorted table was 1984, yet he had dates from 1959 through to 2020 in that column. We tried redoing the sort using a text sort, a number sort, and a date sort, and ascending and descending order, getting different results each time, but nothing that reflected the dates he has in that column.

Then I watched as he did a search for a word, then selected the table again by clicking on the little grid icon at the top left of the table. This time there was a strange movement/cut off the page thing that happened (he wasn’t touching any keys), and the table looked a bit odd. It had moved to another location in the document! He hovered over the Undo command and sure enough, there was the option to undo the move. There is NOTHING that he did that would have caused that table to move!

I watched him do variations on this several times, each time not getting a correct sort and/or moving the table without his intervention.

I thought I’d get him to try something else—select the table from the Table Tools > Layout tab, under Select > Select Table. This time the table sorted correctly AND it didn’t move.

I have no idea what happened but selecting by another means seems to have solved the problem—I hope!

Update: In her comment below, Lene Fredborg suggested that clicking that table selection control might cause the table wrapping to go from ‘none’ to ‘around’ (right-click, Table Properties, Text wrapping), and that’s exactly what happened when I tested it myself. I wonder if this is a bug?


Word: Transpose punctuation characters at the end of a quotation mark

September 26, 2020

In the main, British English and American English treat punctuation at the end of speech quotation marks differently—US English has the punctuation inside the final quotation mark, whereas British English has it outside (there may be some exceptions to this general rule, but let’s just go with what usually happens).

If you need to style speech from British English to US English, you need to find all the various punctuation marks that come after a quotation mark and transpose them so they come before the quotation mark. You can do with with a find and replace using wildcards.

These instructions are for Word for Windows, but you should be able to do something similar in Word for Mac.

  1. Before you start, copy an ending quotation mark to the clipboard. Why? Because there are various symbols used for quotation marks (straight, curly, even a single or double prime) and you want to make sure you get the one you use.
  2. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  3. Click More.
  4. Check the Use wildcards checkbox.
  5. In the Find what field, type: (”)([.,;:\?\!]) (Note: In the first set of parentheses PASTE the quotation mark you copied at Step 1.)
  6. In the Replace with field, type: \2\1\
  7. Click Find Next, then Replace on each that you want to transpose. Only click Replace All once you are confident that you won’t inadvertently change something you shouldn’t.

How this works:

  • In the Find, you have two elements, each surrounded by a set of parentheses—these are elements 1 and 2.
  • In the first element, you paste the quotation mark and make sure it is surrounded by opening and closing parentheses.
  • In the second element, you also have opening and closing parentheses, then within those you have a set of opening and closing square brackets—these indicate that you are looking for a range of characters, and the characters you’re looking for in this instance are a period, a comma, a semicolon, a full colon, a question mark, and an exclamation point. The question mark and exclamation point are special characters in a wildcard Find so you must indicate you want the actual character and not the special function it has. You do this by ‘escaping’ each of these characters with a backslash.
  • In the Replace, you want to position element 2 immediately before element 1 (i.e. transpose it), with no spaces or anything else, which is represented by \2\1\.


September 22, 2020

An aptronym is where a name matches some characteristic of a person, typically their occupation. The first I ever experienced was when I was a kid—the town’s only butcher was… Mr Butcher!

More recently, I’ve come across other names that match their occupations or areas of expertise. For example, authors Whiting and Salmon have both written on fish, Swann has written on birds, and today I came across Fangue, who has co-authored an article on a species of sea krait!

See also:


Word: When spellcheck doesn’t work properly

September 10, 2020

I was working on a big Word document (570 A4 pages, 220,000 words, oil and gas report) and needed to spellcheck it. But straight away, spellcheck started doing weird things, like only ‘seeing’ part of a word. For example, for a word like ‘process’, it wouldn’t recognise the ‘p’ and so reported ‘rocess’ as incorrect. This wasn’t a one-off either—I was seeing this behaviour in almost every word that spellcheck caught.

I thought it might be to do with track changes, so I showed all markup. But no. These words hadn’t been changed at all, and were several lines or paras removed from anything that had been changed.

Next, I wondered if it was to do with the file size and the fact that I had various large Word docs open at the same time. It was the end of the day so I shut down my computer, and decided to try again in the morning. First thing next day, I started the spellcheck, but with no change—it was still reporting parts of words as incorrectly spelled. I checked the language setting on the status bar, but it was correct (sometimes Word will report a partial word as incorrect because a different language is applied to it).

Then I decided to try something I do on most of the docs I work on, but hadn’t done on this one as yet—run the two macros I have for setting the language for most elements ( and for all styles ( Even on a big document like this, these macros took only a minute to run.

I tried spellcheck again, and it worked as it should!

So I can only assume that a language setting was applied to something in the document (possibly a style?) that spellcheck didn’t recognise as Australian English, my version of English.



Word: Changing the punctuation before and after a page number

September 5, 2020

Jeremy wanted to change how his page numbers were punctuated. He needed to change instances such as ‘p152’, ‘p24’ etc. to ‘-p. 152.’, ‘-p. 24.’—that is, he wanted to add a dash in front of the ‘p’, a period and a space after the ‘p’, and a period at the end of the number. I didn’t know what his number range extended to, so I created the Find string to include any of one to four numbers.

This is an easy thing to do using Word’s wildcard find and replace, but there are some warnings:

  • where you have p123-p125, you’ll get ‘-p. 123.–p. 125.’ (i.e. with two dashes—these can be easily found and replaced later using a standard find/replace)
  • where you have p123-125, only the first instance will be replaced as it’s the only one with the ‘p’—you’ll get ‘-p. 123.-125’ (again, you can find <period><dash> later and replace it)
  • I use Word for Windows—the commands may be a little different in Word for Mac.


  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More to open the lower section of the window.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find what field, type: (p)([0-9]{1,4})  (you may find it easier to copy this then paste it into the Find field).
  5. In the Replace with field, type: -\1. \2. (there’s a space after the first period).
  6. Click Find Next.
  7. Check that the item found is correct (i.e. matches the pattern of ‘p’ following immediately by one or more numbers), then click Replace.
  8. If you are very confident that this works for you, you can click Replace All, BUT with Replace All you don’t get the opportunity to manually correct variations, such as those listed in the warnings above.

How this works

  • (p) looks for the letter ‘p’ (this is the first element)
  • ([0-9]) looks for any number from 0 to 9 immediately following the ‘p’, and {1,4} looks for any length of number from one character to four (e.g. p5, p23, p123, p1234)—if the numbers are larger than this, increase the ‘4’ in this part, to a larger number (this is the second element)
  • adds a dash in front of \1, which represents the first element in the Find (i.e. the ‘p’)
  • . \2. adds a period after the first element, then a space, then the second element (which is the one to four digit number), then another period.