Friday, January 23, 2009

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How to Purge Microsoft Word Smart Quotes from On-Line Articles

On-Line articles and blog posts should not include so called "smart quotes" and other non-ASCII characters because older browsers and many email programs display them as a sequence of garbage characters. Here is how to understand the problem better and correct it - very easily if you have an Apple Mac.

Step 1
If you write all your on-line articles with a text editor or HTML editor, you don't need to read this article. The formatting of your on-line articles will be fine.

Step 2
If you intend to use Microsoft Word to author on-line articles, select Preferences, Auto Correct, and un-check all the "Auto-format as you type" options. Also un-check the "Replace text as you type" option. This should prevent the problem in future articles.

Step 3
Smart Quotes and other non-ASCII characters If you have articles that you have already written using Microsoft Word, or if you want to write articles that will look their best both in print and on-line, you need to understand more about "smart quotes." By default, Microsoft Word changes both single quotes (apostrophes) and double quotes into "smart quotes" or "typographer's quotes" - a different mark for the end of a quote than for the beginning. By default, Microsoft Word also converts two dashes into an "em-dash," three periods into an "ellipsis," 1/2 into a single character, and more. These all cause problems in on-line articles because they are all extended characters and not part of the basic ASCII set that is universal to all browsers and email programs.

Step 4
If you have a PC, go to step 6. If you have an Apple Mac you have been blessed by the computer gods, because your solution is so easy. Go to http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/ and download a free copy of the Text Wrangler text editor software.

Step 5
Start TextWrangler. Click File-Open, and enter the name of your file. Click Text-Convert To ASCII. Click File-Save. You are done. All the "smart" double quotes, single quotes, em-dashes, ellipses, and other non-ASCII characters have been converted to their best ASCII equivalents.

Step 6
If you are still reading, you have a PC and have to fix your files manually. Open your .doc file in Word, and turn off all "Auto-format as you type" and "Replace text as you type." - as in step 2.

Step 7
Open the Replace dialog. Type a double quote into the Find box and into the Replace box. Click Replace All. Repeat using a single quote (apostrophe).

Step 8
Getting rid of ellipses, em-dashes, and the others is harder. If you only have a few, edit them manually. If you have a number of them, the following MAY work for you depending on your OS version and settings: Using ellipses as an example, highlight an ellipsis and press control and c. Open the Replace dialog. Click in the Find box and press control and v. If you don't see the ellipsis in the Find box, give up and replace them one at a time. If you do see the ellipsis, type three periods into the Replace box, and click Replace All. Repeat for em-dash, 1/2, and each other non-ASCII character in your document.

Final thoughts:

* Even if you think that you have not used quotes in your article, remember that Microsoft Word will turn the apostrophe in "don't" into a "smart" single quote.

* You may have to customize the specifics of these techniques to your version of Operating System, version of Microsoft Word, and settings.

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