Monday, 27 February 2017

More about formatting books for print or Ebooks: Back to front Apostrophes

As writers formatting our own books, we can fall foul all sorts of hiccups. One of them is apostrophes facing right instead of left! It spoils the book for me as a reader and screams ‘self published.’ What we all want is nice professional text. So how can we fix those pesky apostrophes.

Now I am not talking about those apostrophes which denote possessiveness, as opposed to plurals. There are other excellent notes on those should you need to look them up. No, I’m talking about those denoting missing letters. And not to be forgotten are the speech marks.

As everyone using Word knows, apostrophes do not always do what you want them to. For example, in historical speech, or in colloquial speech, a writer might want to drop an initial letter, as in ’tis for it is, or ’ard for hard. Each time an initial apostrophe needs to be added. The trouble with Word is that if you put an initial apostrophe at the beginning of a word, it comes out back to front, eg.:

            ‘Tis raining ‘ard tonight.

How can we turn the apostrophe around?

Depending on which version of Word you are using it might be a simple matter. Such as holding down Control and hitting the apostrophe key twice to get a left-facing apostrophe.

            ’Tis raining ’ard tonight.

Another method is to put in two apostrophes. Because two together will face each other.

            ‘’Tis raining ‘’ard tonight.

Then go back and delete the unwanted one. Long winded but effective.

A third method is to go to Insert > Symbol > and scroll through until you find what you want, and click on it, click insert. Also long-winded. But from this menu, before you click insert, you can make a permanent code for this symbol by going to shortcut key. Add a code of your choice, in this case control + ’ + ’. (Word automatically adds the + and , symbols. ) Click assign.

By this means (and using a different code) you can add any symbol you like. For example, in my book Gentleman of Fortune, the heroine was called LĂșcia. So I needed to access the accent mark quickly. I put that also on the apostrophe key, and made it control plus one tap on the key. So I would type:

L[control + ’]ucia.
When the ‘u’ was hit the accent would appear above it. (In the end after about fifty thousand times of doing this, I decided to put LĂșcia on the autotext. Wish I’d thought of it sooner!)

Finally, a word about dashes—that is the two –  (small dashes) together to make a long dash—If your version of Word doesn’t do it, it is found on Insert > autotext > auto format as you type; check the appropriate box. This looks nice and professional when you have a printed book.

However, suppose you want to say at the end of a paragraph:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t—

If you just type the sentence, when you hit space, or return for the paragraph it will come out like this:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t--

No long dash. You need to add a full stop, apostrophe, etc., to the end, or a letter then space, you will get the desired effect:

            I cannot stay, I really can’t--n plus space

Of course you need to delete the letter [n] or full stop, or whatever, and the dash will remain a long dash. Job done.

Simple when you know how!

Evelyn Tidman is the author of four historical novels.
Available on Amazon at

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