Why Does My Challenge Entry Look Weird?

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Deb Porter
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Why Does My Challenge Entry Look Weird?

Post by Deb Porter » Sun May 09, 2010 4:25 pm

Unfortunately, if you are asking that question, then you are one of the people who suddenly starts to have formatting glitches. It most often happens when people upload Word documents, but it also happens to some when they copy and paste. Even more annoying, it doesn’t always show up when you preview the entry.

The formatting glitches show up like:


It targets certain special symbols in Word: curly quotation marks and apostrophes, as well as long dashes, in particular. The curly quotes are called “smart quotes,” and they are far from smart when it comes to the internet.

The good news is that there are ways around the problem. It’s a browser issue. A browser interprets characters and code to show how it has to be displayed. To do that, the text has to be in plain text format. So one of the first things to do is to ensure that your file is saved as a plain text file (not as a Word or Rich Text document). You could even write it in a simple text program, such as Notepad. However, if you save a Word file as a normal Word document, or even paste a Word document into Notepad and then save it as plain text, the special symbols Word formatting often persist. So this isn’t the full solution.

A labor-intensive, but low tech way to solve the problem is to type over all the quotation marks, apostrophes and hyphens/dashes in your entry after pasting it in the Challenge submission box. That will remove the curly quotes/apostrophes and long dashes, and this will avoid the glitches. But that’s a pain to have to do every week when there is a way to get rid of them for good.

There is actually a way to turn off the curly quotes and apostrophes (the smart quotes) in Word, and also the hyphens, depending on which version you are using. Instead, Word will automatically insert the browser friendly straight quotes. Even if you turn the feature off only for your Challenge entries, it will be worth the effort. No more glitches.

If you are using Word 2007, this is how to turn them off and on:
1. Open a Word document page. Click on the Office button in the upper left hand corner of your screen.
2. Find the “Word Options” tab which is on the bottom right side of the box. Click “Word Options.”
3. A new window will open. Click on the “Proofing” option from the left side menu.
4. Near the center top of the page you’ll see a box that says “AutoCorrect Options.” Click on that.
5. A new small window will open with tabs along the top. Find the one that says “AutoFormat as You Type” and click on it.
6. The first option you see will be "Replace as you type" with six check boxes below it. Uncheck the first box that says “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes.”
7. Also uncheck the box that says “Hyphens (--) with dash (―).
8. Now you just have to change this in one other place. Click on the tab at the top of the box that just says “AutoFormat.”
9. Again, under the heading “Replace,” uncheck the boxes that say “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” and “Hyphens (--) with dash (―).”
10. Finally, click OK at the bottom of the box, and you are all set to go.
11. To change back to curly quotes, which look much nicer for general typing and non-internet manuscripts, reverse the process. However, I would leave the auto-correct feature for hyphens unchecked. If you want a long dash rather than the double hyphens, select it from the symbols option rather than have the auto-correct feature for that turned back on.
Once that’s done, your curly quotes will become nice, straight, browser-friendly straight quotes. The only thing you will need to remember to do is to type a double hyphen (like --) when wanting a long dash.

If you do this with everything you write for the internet, you will avoid most of the formatting glitches that occur.

If you use Word 2003, the process is even easier, and you can find out how to do it here:

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/ ... 41033.aspx

The bad news with your entry this week is that it can’t be fixed now, as all entries are locked in and we can’t touch them after entries close. However, the good news is that the judges are told to ignore all weird formatting. They know it’s not the author’s fault.

So just take those simple steps when preparing your next entry, and you shouldn’t have anymore problems.

In His love,

Deb Porter
FaithWriters' Writing Challenge Co-ordinator
Breath of Fresh Air Press

Breath of Fresh Air Press - a little publisher with a lot of heart


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