5 Ways to Create an Em Dash

Pause with Scrabble tiles

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated on January 14, 2017.

I have all-in-one laptop that weighs the same as a tablet. It’s a marvel of a machine except for one thing: because it doesn’t have a numeric keypad (less keyboard = better portability), I cannot create em dashes (—) and en dashes (–) in my usual way.

(You know there are three kinds of dashes in written English, right? Use them correctly in your writing and you will impress a copyeditor!)

1. Use built-in keyboard shortcuts.

On a regular-size keyboard with a number keypad, I can use keyboard shortcuts to create em dashes and en dashes:

  • Em dash (—): Alt+0151
  • En dash (–): Alt+0150

In Microsoft Word:

  • Em dash (—): Alt+Ctrl+ - (minus)
  • En dash (–): Ctrl + - (minus)

Mac users use these shortcuts:*

  • Em dash (—): Shift-Alt-hyphen or Command + M
  • En dash (–): Alt-hyphen

My usual keyboard shortcuts don’t work on my portable laptop, though. Here are few workarounds:

2. Plug in a full-size external keyboard or keypad.

This option will only be appealing to you if you tend to use your laptop like a desktop.

For editing documents, I like to plug my laptop into a massive monitor and attach a wireless mouse and full-size keyboard, complete with a number keypad.

Alternatively, you can plug in a portable USB number keypad and use your laptop keyboard and touchpad. With this set-up, there are no problems creating em and en dashes in my usual way—using Alt codes.

But what if you prefer to use your laptop on-the-go, as it’s intended? Read on…

3. Use Unicode character codes.

Most compact PC laptop keyboards won’t allow you to use Alt codes to create em dashes and en dashes, but you can use Unicode character codes in most instances:

  • Em dash: 2014+Alt+x
  • En dash: 2013+Alt+x

You can look up other Unicode character codes here.

Note: Keyboard shortcuts using Unicode character codes don’t work in Scrivener, Gmail, or Google docs. For these programs, try one of the options that follow.

4. Use your word processor’s built-in autocorrect function.

In Google Docs, if you type two hyphens followed by a space, those two hyphens will be changed to an em dash. Out of the box, Word and Scrivener will do the same.

There isn’t an autocorrect option out of the box for an en dash, though. So, you can try this:

In Word 2010 and up, go to Tools, Options, Proofing, and click on the AutoCorrect Options button.

Select the AutoCorrect tab and add these keyboard shortcuts:

  • Replace: .em  With: —
  • Replace .en  With: –

Now each time you type .em (dot em) in Microsoft Word, it will be replaced by an em dash, and .en will give you an en dash.

If you want to do the same in Scrivener, go to Tool, Options, Corrections, Edit Substitutions. In Google Docs, go to Tools, Preferences.

5. Use your operating system’s character map.

Using you operating system’s search function, type in “character map.” A grid with symbols will pop up, and you can select the em dash or en dash and copy and paste it into your document. In Scrivener, you can access your operating system’s character map by going to Edit, Character Map. In Word 2010 and up, you’ll need to go to Insert, Symbol. In Google Docs, go to Insert, Special Characters.

Be Efficient

There are many ways to create em dashes and en dashes on your laptop. If your only option is to use the character map (the least efficient option), consider inserting two hyphens for em dashes in your document for now. You can then use your word processor’s find and replace function to replace the hyphens with the correct symbol later.

Do you use a Mac? Let us know how you insert em dashes and en dashes into your writing in the comments section below.

*Thanks to John Espirian and Geri J. for suggesting keyboard shortcuts for Mac users.

Image by Dennis Skley

Most Popular Writing Tech Posts of 2015

Top 10by C.K. MacLeod

Here are the top 10 Posts on Tech Tools for Writers in 2015.

  1. Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers
  2. Self-Editing Tools
  3. Retrieving a Back-Up File in Scrivener
  4. How to Create a Keyboard Shortcut for the Snipping Tool
  5. 20-Minute Macro Course
  6. Improve Your Writing with Macros
  7. A 5-Minute Guide to Evernote
  8. 5 Ways to Create an Em Dash
  9. Proofreading Tool: PerfectIt Pro
  10. Consistency Checker: A Free Proofreading Tool

Which tool will you try in 2016? Which tool would you like me to write about?

Stay posted for more exciting writing and editing tools in 2016.

Image by Sam Churchill.

Print to Digital: Cleaning Up Your Word File

This week's post is by Carla Douglas from Beyond Paper Editing.

Adapted. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing in August 2014.

If you have a print document that you’d like to self-publish, you can turn it into a digital file and convert it to an ebook.

The first step is to get it into MS Word using OCR software. Note that MS Word is your best friend right now. Editors use Word for a few reasons, and efficient cleanup and editing are high on that list.

Here’s what the file I’m working with looks like as a pdf (produced on a Macintosh Classic and dot matrix printer):

The manuscript has been marked up with pencil, and these marks are picked up by the OCR software, sometimes in unexpected ways. Here’s what the Word file looks like:

Two Kinds of Cleanup

There’s junk in the file—the stuff you can see, and the stuff you can’t. Sometimes, what’s hidden behind the scene in Word is the cause of the junk you can see—things like garbled text and wonky formatting. Also, the pencil marks that haven’t been converted to text remain in the document as pictures, and will have to be deleted. Some random characters appear, too, and the text is all boldface. These are just a few of the things you can see.

To clean up this file, will a spritz of vinegar and water do, or will you need industrial-strength degreaser? The answer depends on what you plan to do with the file next. If you’re going to revise or edit the text, clean it up enough to continue working on it, and save the heavy-duty cleanup for later.

For Initial Cleanup

The story I’m working with here is just over 4,000 words, and it won’t be converted to an ebook any time soon. I’m going to do an initial cleanup using FileCleaner from Jack Lyon’s Editorium. (Wiley Publishing  has a free Word add-in with many similar features.)

FileCleaner is about US$30, but there’s a generous 45-day free trial available. It runs as a Word plug-in. Follow the directions on the site to download and install it. It will appear on the Add-ins pane in your Word ribbon. Here’s what it will do (you can select/unselect features):

Running FileCleaner cleaned up most of the junk in my story file—it’s now in a format I can continue to edit without too many distractions. Here’s what it looks like post-FileCleaner:

As you can see, FileCleaner didn’t catch the text that had been marked up with pencil. After trying a few ways to clean this up—including selecting the text and applying Normal style to it—I ended up having to repair it manually by deleting the picture and re-keying the sentence that’s squished together. Because my document is short, this wasn’t a problem, but in a longer document it could present a significant inconvenience. Here’s a last look at the cleaned-up text:

Other Cleanup Tips

At times, Word can be frustrating to work in—with extra page breaks and hidden formatting, it will do things you don’t want it to. For now, I’ve cleaned my file up well enough to do further editing.

If your Word document is really acting up, there are a few of things to try. I’ve found that the best place to start is by using the show/hide feature on the Word ribbon.  How to Find the Hidden Formatting That Will Mess Up Your Ebook, shows you how.

Image by atomicjeep

How to Write a Quality Book Fast

Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, you've tasked yourself to write a book in four weeks. How will you do it?

Writing a book can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow. I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks. Here's how:

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don't always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it'll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You'll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book.

Trust me, it's never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book's structure isn't working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It's also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I'm hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer's toolkit.

I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good.

I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you'll find it on Amazon for $0.99 during NaNoWriMo. 

Revise Your Writing With Self-Editing Macros

Hide your eyes

by C.K. MacLeod

Macros—tiny programs that run in Microsoft Word— have changed the way I revise my writing. They highlight potential problems, so I can fix them:

NeedlessWords macro in action
NeedlessWords macro in action

Below is a list of my favourite self-editing macros, designed to work with Microsoft Word:

  • Confusables — words that are often used inncorrectly
  • lyWords — adverbs, which will likely need to be deleted
  • NeedlessWords — words that clutter your writing
  • PassiveWords — words that can obscure meaning; change passive words to active words
  • PlainLanguage — high falutin’ words that can just as easily be replaced with simpler words
  • TellingWords — words that suggest instances of telling, where showing might work better

Editor Paul Beverley has created a 600-page book of free macros. You'll need to download his book to get these helpful macro scripts:

  • CountThisWord—tells you how many times you've used a word to determine if you've overused it
  • HighlightSame—highlights all instances of a word you've selected; use it with CountThisWord
  • LongSentenceHighlighter—highlights long sentences so you can shorten them

If you're not sure how macros can help, or how to use them, this free 20-minute macro course will have you up and running in no time!

You can't always see where your writing needs fixing. Revision macros can help you to see what you're missing.

Image by Linda Åslund

Why Editors Use Word—Writers can Harness Word’s Powers, too!

by C.K. MacLeod

Why Editors Use Word

Revised and updated on Sept 12, 2015. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Authors can use a variety of tools for the writing and publishing process. In Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I describe over 30 tools that authors can use, and some of them can even make the writing and publishing process more efficient.

Be sure to choose the best tool for the job, though. Take editing, for example. Microsoft Word is the professional editor’s tool of choice because it helps editors do their work better and faster.

Word’s Built-in Functions

Word has some pretty powerful built-in functions that can help editors hunt down errors efficiently:

Learning to use any of Word’s built-in functions can save an editor loads of time.

Add-ins and Macros

Word also works well with powerful add-ins and macros–tiny software programs that automate a variety of specific editing tasks. But it’s not just about automation; its about accuracy, too. These tools can help editors catch things they’d otherwise miss.

Here is a sample of editing tools and macros that have been designed to be used with Word:

  • CrossEyes: A “reveal codes” tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for ebook formatting (Word 2010 and earlier; PC only).
  • FileCleaner: For quick document clean-up
  • Computer Tools for Writers and Editors (free): A variety of  macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying.
  • PerfectIt: A consistency checker
  • Reference Checker: Checks in-text citations against references (for specific style guides)

Writers can use Word’s built-in functions, macros, and add-ins, too. There’s a learning curve involved with each tool, but if you have the time and interest to learn something new, these tools can help you save on editing costs later.

Note: if you ask your editor to edit your manuscript in software that doesn’t have or allow for the use of these tools, your editor will take longer to complete the job. Keep that in mind if you’re paying your editor by the hour!

Editors use Word because it helps them to do their best job for you, the author. I suspect that editors will continue to use Word until other tools can rival Word’s capabilities.


Note: Many of the macros listed in this post are designed for Word for PC and are not available for Mac users. Mac users can write their own macros, though, and run Parallels Desktop so that they can make use of commercially available macros.

Image by leigh49137

How Not to Miss Your Editor’s Suggestions

by C.K. MacLeod

How Not to Miss Your Editor's Suggestions

I recently got back my book manuscript from my copyeditor. She uses track changes and comments in Microsoft Word to suggest improvements. In fact, many editors use Microsoft Word for editing. This article will tell you why.

In a book-length document, it’s possible to miss a suggestion from your editor, especially tiny punctuation insertions:

Word comma

Here’s how to avoid missing your editor’s suggestions:

In Word 2010, go to Review tab, Changes area. Click on the Next button to move your cursor from change to change.

Track next change

Or, a faster way is to assign a keyboard shortcut for the Next function. You’ll only need to do this once.

In Word 2010, go to File, Options, Customize Ribbon, Keyboard Shortcuts: Customize.

Select Review Tab in the Categories area.

Select NextChangeOrComment in the Commands area. That’s essentially the Next button in the ribbon. Assign a keyboard shortcut in the Press New Shortcut Key area. I use Ctrl+N,C (NC means Next Change).

Click Assign.

If you’re using other versions of Word, see this article for specific instructions for assigning a shortcut key to functions in ribbons and menus.

You can now use Ctrl+N,C to move from change to change in your manuscript in Word. You’ll never miss a suggestion from your editor again!

Image by sethoscope

A Macro for Commonly Confused Words

 

A Macro For Commonly Confused Words

By C.K. MacLeod

Updated July 30, 2015

Thanks to Eliza Dee for suggesting a tweak that makes this macro even better (see the comments below for details)! The macro script has been updated.

Adverse or averse? Assent or ascent? English contains many words that are easily confused—words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.

Tackle potential confusables when it's time to edit your writing. The macro below will highlight commonly confused words in just minutes. After you run the macro, check the highlighted words to see if you've used them correctly. Refer to this list to look up any words you're unsure of.

Tip for editors: use this macro to make potential confusables stand out during a first pass.

Quick Steps

  1. Copy and paste the macro into Word's VBA.
  2. Run the macro on your writing.
  3. Remove highlighting from words as you check them.

Sub Confusables()
' Highlights confusables
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised Subcortical, Jami Gold, C.K. MacLeod and Eliza Dee; word list, Commonly Confused Words by Oxford Dictionaries http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/commonly-confused-words
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("accept", "except", "adverse", "averse", "advice", "advise", "affect", "effect", "aisle", "isle", "altogether", "all together", "along", "a long", "aloud", "allowed", "altar", "alter", "amoral", "immoral", "appraise", "apprise", "assent", "ascent", "aural", "oral", "awhile", "a while", "balmy", "barmy", "bare", "bear", "bated", "baited", "bazaar", "bizarre", "birth", "berth", "born", "borne", "bow", "bough", "break", "brake", "broach", "brooch", "canvas", "canvass", "censure", "censor", "cereal", "serial", "chord", "cord", "climactic", "climatic", "coarse", "course")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList1
TargetList1 = Array("complacent", "complaisant", "complement", "compliment", "council", "counsel", "cue", "queue", "curb", "kerb", "currant", "current", "defuse", "diffuse", "desert", "dessert", "discreet", "discrete", "disinterested", "uninterested", "draught", "draft", "draw", "drawer", "duel", "dual", "elicit", "illicit", "ensure", "insure", "envelop", "envelope", "exercise", "exorcise", "fawn", "faun", "flair", "flare", "flaunt", "flout", "flounder", "founder", "forbear", "forebear", "forward", "foreword", "freeze", "frieze", "grisly", "grizzly", "hoard", "horde", "imply", "infer", "loathe", "loath")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList1)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList1(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList2
TargetList2 = Array("lose", "loose", "meter", "metre", "militate", "mitigate", "palate", "palette", "pedal", "peddle", "poll", "pole", "pour", "pore", "practice", "practise", "prescribe", "proscribe", "principle", "principal", "sceptic", "septic", "sight", "site", "stationary", "stationery", "story", "storey", "titillate", "titivate", "tortuous", "torturous", "wreath", "wreathe")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList2)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList2(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


After you've addressed each highlighted word, use Paul Beverley's free UnHighlight macro to remove highlights, one instance at a time.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation.

Learn how to use macros with this free 20-minute macro course. You can run macros in Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (pro version).

*The lists of words in this macro are from the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Image by Dvortygirl

Can Using Editing Tools Improve Your Writing?

Can Using Editing Tools Improve Your Writing?

By C.K. MacLeod and Carla Douglas

This post first appeared on June 17, 2015 at The Book Designer and on July 15, 2015 at Beyond Paper Editing.

In the tongue-in-cheek post How to Write a Book Even Faster, the author suggests that writers are not editing their writing. That can’t be true! (Right?) How do you edit your writing? Perhaps you use one of these self-editing approaches...

Approaches to Self-Editing

There are many ways to improve your writing. You can

  • set your writing aside for a month or two and tackle it again from a renewed perspective
  • get structured feedback from beta readers
  • hire an editor to assess your first draft and suggest improvements
  • run editing tools on your writing

Let’s look at each of these self-editing approaches.

DIY Feedback

You may be exhausted from your first-draft efforts. Setting your writing aside for a spell may give you the time you need to recharge and become excited about your book project again. It may also afford you the perspective you need to see where your writing needs fixing. This approach to self-editing is most effective if there aren’t time constraints, and if you’re able to see what needs improving.

External Feedback

The remaining items on the list above are different from the first item in one important way: they offer feedback on your writing from an external source — from someone, or something, other than you. Because it’s difficult to be objective about your own writing, external feedback can alert you to your writing blind spots.

Not everyone responds well to feedback from beta readers and editors. Writers need to be able to develop resilience for receiving feedback, but this takes time and practice. If you’re still working on developing your resilience, we have another “external” self-editing option for you: editing tools.

Editing Tools

Many editors use automated editing tools to efficiently find problems in a piece of writing. If writers want to learn how these tools work, they can use them to diagnose their own writing!

Below is a list of some our favourite editing tools, linked to articles that describe how to use them. We’ve organized them into the four levels of editing that every manuscript should go through.

Not all tools are diagnostic and automated.* Some of them, such as the paragraph-level and big-picture tools, will help you when it’s time to fix your writing. We’ve selected tools that we think will be most helpful to writers, but there are many more tools that you can explore and try.

Self-Editing Tools for Writers

Tool Word-level Sentence-level Paragraph-level Big-picture level
Consistency Checker* x x
Hemingway app* x x
PerfectIt Pro* x
Self-Editing macros* x
Scrivener’s Binder+ x x
Word’s Navigation Pane+ x x
Split-screen feature in Scrivener+ x x
Split-screen feature in Word+ x x

 

*Diagnostic tools: these tools will check for one or more potential writing problems with the click of a button.

+Fixing tools: these tools will help you fix writing problems, once they are identified.

As far as we know, there aren’t automated diagnostic tools that will point out paragraph-level and big-picture problems. At least not yet. For now, you’ll need to educate yourself about common paragraph-level and big-picture problems, or get some direction from beta readers and editors. You can use the paragraph-level and big-picture tools in the table above to efficiently fix problems, once you know what they are.

Advantages of Editing Tools

Editing tools have a few distinct advantages over the other self-editing methods mentioned at the beginning of this article:

  • They aren’t people, which means that writers probably won’t respond to feedback emotionally, or take feedback personally. A tool also won’t roll its eyes because you’ve forgotten to close quotations and parentheses 54 times in a 300-page book. It’ll point out these errors, without judgment. And we could all use a little less judgement.
  • If you consider what these tools are telling you about your writing, you will sharpen your self-editing skills.
  • You can use diagnostic editing tools five minutes after you’ve typed the period on the last sentence of your first draft. This makes editing tools brilliant for on-demand writing.
  • These tools are widely available, and some of them are cheap or free. (Editors are widely available, but they’re not cheap or free.)
  • If you plan to use tools for self-editing, and later decide to hire an editor, your editor may have less to do, and that can save on editing costs.

Can these tools help you to become a better writer? We’re still gathering data on that. From what we’ve seen — with authors who’ve been willing to act on the information suggested by diagnostic editing tools — it does seem possible.

For example, if a tool suggests that you’ve included needless words in your writing, after deleting 103 needless words in the first 50 pages of your manuscript, there’s a good chance that you’ll include fewer of them in your writing in future!

Limitations of Editing Tools

Editing tools will not do it all. They have limitations that are important to understand. They will not write your book, cook your breakfast, or collect your kids from school. And they also won’t do these three things:

Won’t Think for You

An editing tool can alert you to potential problems with your writing. You need to decide when to address a highlighted instance and when to ignore it.

For example, the Hemingway app will highlight adverbs in blue, so you can, presumably, obliterate them. Why? Adverbs can clutter your writing and indicate instances of telling instead of showing. (Show, don’t tell!)

But does that mean you need to excise every adverb in sight? No. Depending on what you’re writing, you may choose to sprinkle adverbs as you would expensive fleur de sel.

Won’t Fix It for You

Editing tools are not designed to fix your writing for you. They identify problems, or help you fix problems efficiently. You have to do the heavy lifting.

For example, if your tool has highlighted a sentence that’s too long, you will need to divide that unwieldy beast into two shorter sentences. Your tool won’t do that for you.

Won’t Do the Footwork for You

If a solution to a writing problem isn’t obvious to you, you may need to dig around in writing craft books or style guides for help with interpreting what a tool is telling you.

Consider the example below. PerfectIt Pro 3 is asking the author to check the use of a hyphen in this instance. Has the author used the hyphen correctly?

Looking things up isn’t a waste of your time. The more you know why something might need fixing, the better your writing will be. If you let them, editing tools will show you where you quirks are, teach you what to pay attention to, and inspire (or provoke) you to make adjustments.

How to Use Editing Tools

As with any kind of learning, you need to go slowly or you could become overwhelmed. Here are some tips for keeping things manageable:

  1. Remember to begin with big-picture editing fixes and work your way down to word-level fixes. Editing order matters.
  2. Run diagnostic tools, one chapter at a time, until you become familiar with how these tools work. Exceptions: Run Consistency Checker and PerfectIt Pro on your entire book. Why? They’re designed to check for consistency across an entire manuscript.
  3. Run one tool at a time. Don’t run several tools at once. You’ll have too many things to pay attention to. The key is to remain focused and to improve your writing by degrees.
  4. Be strategic. You don’t need to run every tool on your writing, every time. Once you’re familiar with the tools we recommend, you’ll know which ones best address your most persistent writing quirks.
  5. Consult self-editing books for solutions to the writing problems your tools uncover.

Editing tools can help you to become aware of your writing blind spots and sharpen your self-editing skills. They may even help you become better at writing.

If, however, you’ve decided that learning how to use these tools is not for you, and you prefer to have writing problems fixed for you, we have yet another solution. Hire an editor! (You had to know we were going to say that.)

Note: We used the Hemingway app and PerfectIt Pro 3 to edit this article.

Image by Steve Snodgrass

Use Cross-Eyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems

Use CrossEyes to Prevent Ebook Formatting Problems, by C.K. MacLeod

by C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Hidden formatting in a Word document can cause trouble in the ebook conversion process. In Word, what you see is not always what you get. This video will show you how to use CrossEyes—a format revealer—to reveal hidden formatting in a Word document.

Have you ever worked with WordPerfect? If you have, CrossEyes works just like WordPerfect’s Reveal Codes feature. It's a free Microsoft Word add-in for Windows, and you can get it at Levit & James, Inc. Once you download CrossEyes, you’ll find it under the Add-Ins tab in the Custom Toolbars area in Word.

Note: CrossEyes doesn't work in Mac versions of Word (sorry!) or Word 2013.

Formatting Codes

If you’re not familiar with formatting "codes," CrossEyes will seem a little foreign to you at first. But with some practice, you can become adept at reading the formatting codes and deleting the ones you don’t want. It helps that the codes are featured in bright colours and colour-coded according to type.

CrossEyes window; codes are in colour (Click to enlarge)

A quick peek in the CrossEyes window tells you that in the first line of the document paragraph, the author introduced a different font to the document. The font is similar to Times New Roman used elsewhere in the document, but with an unpracticed eye, or without the help of CrossEyes, it can be easy to miss. CrossEyes exposes the font so you can delete it.

How to Delete or Change a Style

To change a style in CrossEyes, double-click on a coloured formatting code in the CrossEyes window, and hit the Enter key to select a new style. A Styles dialog will pop up, allowing you to choose another style option. You can also hit the Backspace key to delete a code, which will then delete the applied style.

CrossEyes Styles dialog box

CrossEyes can also help you to see formatting that you can’t see, but that can cause problems for ebook conversion later on. If you click on the white space in a document, you’ll discover if different fonts are lurking, or if "illegal" ebook spacing (tabs and extra paragraph spaces) have been applied. You'll want to remove unwanted formatting so that it doesn’t alter text in undesirable ways on an e-reader.

If you have a Word document that behaves in strange ways on an e-reader, or an ebook that's getting error messages after you upload it to a distributor, such as Amazon or Smashwords, CrossEyes will help you to see what’s going on.

Image by Charline Tetiyevsky