The word on Word

All work and no play has left me feeling very, very dull, so the most exciting thing I have to post about after a very long hiatus are some tricks I’ve learned about Word. Perhaps everyone else in the world already knows these things, but they were all new to me and some have been quite helpful.

I’m sure as e-authors, we all know about en and em dashes, the en the shorter dash that’s used almost like parenthesis, the em the longer dash and when used in dialogue usually denotes a pause or someone having cut the speaker off.  In theory, Word creates the appropriately sized dash when you use two hyphens in a row. If there is a space before the double-hyphen, Word will make it an en dash, and if there is no space, i.e., if the double-hyphen starts at the end of the previous word, it will make it an em dash. But it doesn’t always do that. If you paused too long between typing the hyphens or if you go back to insert it later, most often it will simply show two hyphens with a little space between them. It doesn’t look quite the same; when I find them in reading an eBook, it seems a bit jarring.  To guarantee you’ll always get the dash of your choice, you can make an en dash by using Control and the minus sign on the numeric pad on the right hand side of the keyboard. For an em dash, you use Control, Alt, and the minus sign on the numeric keypad. This will not work if you use Control and the actual hyphen on the number row on the keyboard.

You can have Word create an ellipsis for you by using Control, Alt and the period.

Did you know that if you’re using an ellipsis to denote that someone has just let their statement trail off, all you use is the ellipsis, not the ellipsis followed by a period. To put a period there means there is something deleted from that sentence. Just a weird thing I came across serendipitously when looking for something else in a grammar book.

Also, during that same search, I came across something I’d been taught — or at least thought I’d been taught — back in grade school, which was that if you use ‘if’ it is always paired with ‘were.’ Not true. You use ‘if’ + ‘were’ when you are referring to a future or improbable event (If I were king) and ‘if’ + ‘was’ when it refers to the present or something very likely to happen (If he was at work today, I didn’t see him).

Back to Word. I was using ‘Find and Replace’ to change a character’s name. I can’t quite remember what the character’s name was and what I changed it to. But when I did that using F&R and let it do it automatically rather than pause to let me okay each one, it changed those letters even when they appeared in the middle of a word. What a mess that was to fix. I’ve since learned that if you put a space at the end of the word you’re trying to find, it will prevent things like that. The example I can give you (not the one from my original mistake) is changing a character’s name from Tim to Tom. Without a space at the end of tim, any word with ‘tim’  in it would be changed, e.g., intimate to intomate, time to tome.

I had a manuscript that, when converted to single space, had double spacing between the paragraphs. I know some people do that, but it just smacks of trying to make your book look longer than it actually is. I wanted to take those double spaces out and to do that manually would have taken ages since it was a 300+ page manuscript. But you can do it with Find and Replace.  For the find,  you use two sets of a caret and a p (^p^p) and on the replace line just one set (^p). It worked perfectly.

There you are. Those are the tricks I can remember at the moment. If more come to mind, I’ll post about then another time.

Happy writing!




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