Beware the hidden characters

John Beatty | La Salle University

This is a test to see what people know about MSWord, WordPerfect, etc., and to introduce typographic and hidden characters. I paste a chunk of e-mail text into Word, and then tell them they have to give me a file with proper paragraph indents, spacing after paragraphs, after periods, and proper typographic characters.

Usually, a lot of students won't know how to reveal hidden characters. The idea is that the file would be ready to be dumped into Quark for pagination in a columnar format, so that there are true first-line indents, and no tabs, extra spaces or returns at the ends of lines (which most e-mails generate).

I discuss proper typographic characters at the same time, as apostrophes, quote marks, em-dashes, ellipses and perhaps diacritical marks will all need to be repaired in the original e-mail. So it makes for a good list, which I realized later is really the old Mac is Not a Typewriter Robin Williams checklist. I teach it in that sense (why IS there no ellipsis, em-dash on the keyboard, why are the quotes not smart, etc.), although they all think I'm a crazy old coot at that point.

My “PC is not a typewriter” list

So, for a proper text file intended for publishing:

    Use true paragraph indents.
  • Use a single space, not double, at the end of a sentence.
  • Don’t add/leave returns at the end of lines.
  • Don’t use “O” for “0” or “l” for “1.” This can happen in text that has been scanned (digitized through optical character recognition or OCR software).
  • Use real em dash, (—) not two hyphens (--); en dash (9–5) not a hyphen (9-5). Insert-Symbol or Tools-AutoCorrect.
  • Use typographer’s (curly or smart) quotes (“ ” ‘ ’) not inches and feet marks (" " ' ' ).
  • Use real ellipses (…), not three periods (...).
  • Use real fraction characters (_) not standard numerals (1/2)
  • Use true diacritical marks (é) not an apostrophe after the letter (e'). Insert-Symbol.
  • Titles are italicized or with quotes (depending on publication style) never underlined.

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