Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Watch out for hyphens.


Microsoft Word makes lots of mistakes, particularly with hyphens.

Sometimes it seems to take a guess, or follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses, such as “li-mited” instead of “lim-ited,” “identic-al” instead of identi-cal,” “firs-thand” instead of “first-hand” and “bet-ween” instead of “be-tween.” Be prepared to do outside research and overrule Microsoft’s judgement.

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and “cre-ate” and this results in errors like “se-ize” and “cre-dit.”

Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, which causes it to make bizarre errors like “par-chment.”

Words that can have two meanings and can be pronounced in two ways cause problems. Word can’t distinguish between “minute” (the noun) and “minute” (the adjective). It assumes you mean the noun, and will give you “min-ute” even when you want “mi-nute.”

You can also get strange results if you rely on automatic hyphenation and have proper names. Word broke up “Panasonic” as “Pa-nasonic” instead of “pan-asonic” or “Pana-sonic.”

So now you have another reason to proofread very carefully, and never have complete faith in robots.

Perhaps because of Word’s hyphenation shortcomings, or a desire to be different, or maybe because they don’t know any better, some people shun hyphens completely.

Belinda Kroll writes as “Worderella” and packaged a collection of her blog advice to writers as a mini-book called Worderella on Writing. I could not find any hyphens at the end of any lines. I don’t know if this was the author’s decision or the publisher’s error. It was published by Lulu, which has a history of typographic disasters. Whoever is responsible, it was a bad decision. The effect is not artistic, it’s just plain silly, and often ugly and unnecessarily difficult to read. It also wastes paper and toner.

The pages are set flush-left/ragged right, but the right side is not just ragged, it’s jagged, with huge unattractive gaps that could have been easily avoided. A book that tries to advise writers should have been done better.

1 comment:

  1. Michael, thank you for your comments! I wish you had commented on my blog, I'm doing my best to learn and improve. I thank you for taking the time to read my book, however.

    Suffice it to say, that was my test book with Lulu and there's a reason I'm not going back. I've since become proficient in InDesign and let me tell you... once you go to InDesign, you never go back. But I'm certain you knew that. :)

    Thanks again, it's always a good reminder that people will be looking at your work.

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