Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Weakness of Word,
and some tips to avoid it



Microsoft Word often makes mistakes with hyphens. Sometimes it seems to guess, or follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than 2007.

“The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity” and “bet-ween.”

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “cre-dit.” Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon. Someone has to fix this stuff.

Terms that can have two meanings and can be pronounced in two ways cause problems. Word 2007 won’t hyphenate either “Polish” or “polish” and can’t distinguish between “minute” (the noun) and “minute” (the adjective). It gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute.”

Automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names. Word broke up “Panasonic” as “Pa-nasonic.”

So no-w you hav-e anot-her re-ason to proo-fread very ca-refully, an-d neve-r to hav-e co-mplete fai-th in robo-ts.
  • Someone who uses Word for Mac said he does not have the hyphenation problems that I've had with Word on three PCs.
  • You can buy Word 2010 for $140, or buy MS Office 2010 (which includes Word) for $130.
  • In the course of normal editing, glance down the right-hand margins of every page or column of text to find defective hyphenation.
  • Before you decide your manuscript is ready to become a book, do a "Find" search for hyphens and examine them all.
  • I once decided to change a real name to a fake name in a book I was writing, to avoid embarrassing someone who might not want to be written about. I used Word’s Find and Replace feature, which quickly made about a dozen substitutions in a chapter. But when I read through the chapter I was surprised to find a few instances of the old name which had escaped the Find function. It’s important to do a manual verification, because Find might not find hyphenated words or words with apostrophes or in their plural form as targets for replacement. Don’t risk a lawsuit by leaving in a wrong name or word.

1 comment:

  1. I admit, with a certain perverse pride, that I haven't used Office or Word since the last century, so I don't know whether it has this capability or not, but in OpenOffice (beats the jabberwockies out of Word and it's FREE!), one of my routine end-of-the-book editing tasks is to have the program step through every word in the file that is divided at the end of a line, whether it did it automatically or I did it manually. The search stops on every divided word, showing all other possible locations for the hyphen and giving me the chance to move it, to unite the word on one line, or to let it go as it is.

    Many times, the program (which uses algorithmic division, modified by a custom dictionary), has split contractions, possessives, proper names (I know, but I'm too old-school for that), one word in a hyphenated compound or phrase, etc, and this is an excellent way to catch these.

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