Short Nerd Chief

Typographic mistakes and how to avoid them

Posted by Fred on April 18, 2008

Oh, how I do love obsessive people (although I wish we’d stop referring to them as “Nazis”).  The spelling obsessive is quite common, as is the grammar obsessive. I’d never observed the typographically OCD before now.  Via Lifehacker, observe Chris Phin, self described typography nazi:

A hyphen – the kind of short dash you see above – should really only be used when linking words such as ready-made. It shouldn’t even be used mathematically to represent a minus, as there’s a dedicated character for that, too [thanks, Dash Nazi!]. Most other uses mandate an en dash – as here, for example – or when planning meetings from 1–2. Changing fashions mean the the long dash—this one, called an em dash—is rarely seen, but where it is, it’s usual to render it without the spaces on either side or with special hairline spaces instead.

Chris gives solutions to most of the problems he identifies, at least for the Mac.  On Windows, there are two general ways to enter a special character. For some character sets, hold down [Alt] while pressing a series of numbers on the numeric keypad (not the row of numbers on the keyboard, so laptop users may well be challenged). In programs such as Microsoft Word, you can also enter the Unicode value and then press [Alt]+X.  Here are the PC solutions to Chris’ typographical mistakes:

Opening double quote [Alt]+0147
Closing double quote [Alt]+0148
Opening single quote [Alt]+0145
Closing single quote [Alt]+0146
Closing apostrophe ’08 [Alt]+0146
Single prime (feet) 2032, [Alt]+X
Double prime (inches) 2033, [Alt]+X
Multiplication sign × [Alt]+0215
Degree symbol ° [Alt]+0176
en dash [Alt]+0150
em dash [Alt]+0151
interpunct · [Alt]+0183
Ellipsis [Alt]+0133
Left guillemet « [Alt]+0171
Right guillemet ­» [Alt]+0187
Fractions—quarters ¼ ½ ¾ [Alt]+0188, [Alt]+0189, [Alt]+0190
Fractions—thirds ⅓ ⅔ 2153 [Alt]+X, 2154 [Alt]+X
Fractions—fifths ⅕ ⅖ ⅗ ⅘ 2155 [Alt]+X, 2156 [Alt]+X, 2157 [Alt]+X, 2158 [Alt]+X
Fractions—eighths ⅛ ⅜ ⅝ ⅞ 215B [Alt]+X, 215C [Alt]+X, 215D [Alt]+X, 215E [Alt]+X
Fraction slash 2044 [Alt]+X

Characters can also be inserted in any Windows program by using the Character Map, which (on XP) is found under System Tools on the Start Menu.  This was the only way to insert the Alt-X unicode characters in Windows Live Writer, which does not accept the Alt-X command.

I, of course, do none of these things, but this was an interesting exercise nonetheless.


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