tech tips for writers

Tech Tip #173: Two Editing Tips

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

Editing is a challenge but formatting can be worse. Sometimes, what shows up on the word processing page isn’t what I want and I don’t know how to fix it.

Here are two that long-annoyed me and now I have fixes for:

  • Replace straight quotes with curly
  • Replace double dashes with an em dash

Replace straight quotes with curly

There are two types of quote marks–straight and curly.

Straight quotes are the two generic vertical quotation marks (or one for contractions):

Curly quotes are used to open and close dialogue.

Sometimes, you type a curly quote (at the start or finish of dialogue) but it comes out a straight quote (don’t ask me why). That has to be fixed but how to do that without laboriously copy-pasting the right type where it belongs (which I did until my editor, Anneli Purchase, suggested an easier way).  Here’s an easy solution from Hodgepodge Solutions:

  1. On the File tab, click Options.
  2. Click Proofing, and then click AutoCorrect Options.
  3. In the AutoCorrect dialog box, do the following:
    • Click the AutoFormat As You Type tab, and under Replace as you type, select the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” checkbox.
    • Click the AutoFormat tab, and under Replace, select the “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes” checkbox.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Do a “Find and Replace.”
    • Under Find, type a single quotation mark (‘).
    • Under Replace, type a single quotation mark (‘).
    • Click Replace All.
    • Repeat the above steps with a double quotation mark (“).

If you’d prefer a video, here’s a good one:

Turn double dashes into em dashes

An em dash is that long, smooth dash that allows you to add an additional thought within a sentence—like this. The em dash is one line without a break. That doesn’t always happen when typing. Tech Tools for Writers has five good solutions that include:

  • keyboard shortcuts
  • Unicode shortkeys (that Alt+a number stuff)
  • program your word processing auto-correct feature (great idea)
  • 2 more

…but my favorite is:

If you find a double dash that should be an em dash:

Add a space after the word that follows what should be an em dash. It automatically converts it for you:

When I have a lot of these, I do a find-replace and clean them all out at once.

BTW, the only way I know to do this in WordPress is with their special characters key. Any faster suggestions?

More Tech Tips for Writers:

Take Care of Your Computer

Read a Word Doc on Kindle

Make Your Own Digital Bookshelf

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Man vs. Nature saga, and the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.

67 thoughts on “Tech Tip #173: Two Editing Tips

  1. I haven’t had an issue with the quotation marks but the emdash can be annoying. I’ve found if you hit the dash twice, then enter so you start a new line, then backspace, it changes to an emdash, but I like your ideas better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most people who don’t use a lot of tech struggle. Even the kids who grew up with tech miss a lot of stuff. It has more to do with courage to confront tech than knowing how to use it!


  2. Thanks, Jacqui. It’s always good to learn a few more shortcuts. I haven’t heard a request for straight or curly inverted commas, only for single or double. I wish the styles were the same everywhere. It would sure make life easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this, Jacqui! While I knew about the em dash, I did NOT know about the straight and curly quotes. I only knew about the curly quotes. So interesting. Thanks for the tips! Have a beautiful weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

          • I think I indented 5 spaces. After I set e market, when I pressed return, it did start the new paragraph to the same indentation.

            When working on the poetry book, I had a lot of problem with the indentation. When I was done formatting 120 pages, my right arm was in pain from the index finger to the upper arm and ended up having physical therapy. So I want to learn the proper way to do indentation. Nothing urgent at this point.

            I’ll watch the video for my learning.

            Liked by 1 person

            • It’s all in that little ruler toolbar at the top of the page, like the video shows. I set my indent for 3 spaces (which seems to be what publishers like now–saves space). The problem is if you’re centering a title, you have to remove that indent manually or the title isn’t quite centered. My book designer offers a service where she formats the inside of a book. Then, you don’t have to think twice about any of those. I don’t use it because I can do all of them but I can see their great value.

              That’s awful about the pain in your hand. There are audio ways to do this stuff which I haven’t tried. My right hand is not so good but still works. We’ll both have to use audio controls soon!

              Liked by 1 person

            • Audio sounds wonderful to me, Jacqui! Who knows? If we keep writing, we may come to a time when we don’t want to bother with the tiny details. In fact, I consider having a designer to do my next book, but it’s not in sight yet!

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I have learned most of these things over the course of the last few months through trial and error and some through looking it up via research. I like that there is more than one way to solve each problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent tips, Jacqui! For the em dash, I set up a custom key in Word, and do it that way. In the classic text editor in WordPress I’ll use the em dash under the symbol function. In the new editor, I haven’t discovered the trick yet!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Hahaha. No, we don’t, Jacqui. I think where I first heard that curly quotes are preferred was in the instructions (years ago now) for e-book uploads to Smashwords. I see that Chicago Manual of Style also shudders at the use of straight quotes, preferring the curly (directional) quotation marks for all published work. One thing you have to watch out for when using the curly quotes is when you need a single quotation mark at the beginning of a word to show a missing letter (such as in ’til). Using a curly quote setting (which you should have set up), the single will come out facing the wrong way, thinking that you mean to start dialogue with single quotation marks. To turn the single mark in the right direction in a case like this, you have to fool it into thinking there is a letter to the left of it and it will turn into a closing quotation position. Then you need to go back and delete the letter you put in there to fool it. e.g. You might type a’til and then go back and delete the “a.” But generally, having the quotation marks set up as curly (or smart quotes) before you start typing should avoid all other straight quote problems. You should not be getting a mixture of quotation marks unless you are copying and pasting from another source.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Straight quotes with curly ones drives me crazy. I have Pro Writing Aid that replaces the correct ones when I get it wrong. Keeping the details like these buggers is frustrating yet so important. Thanks for your latest tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I defined a custom key command in Word so I can type an em dash and don’t have to worry about spaces. Sometimes if you forget, Word doesn’t like it and won’t do it for you even when you go back. And I have some editing clients who prefer spaces on both sides of their em dashes. It was just easier to define a keystroke.

    WordPress makes an em dash if you type three hyphens. Or is that just on a Mac? I’ve been doing it that way on my blog for years.

    When you do a find/replace of dumb quotes to smart quotes, don’t you have to go back and check for single quotes that are facing the wrong way? When I edit, I often have to change apostrophes that are facing the wrong way. (It’s still the fastest way to make the switch. I’m just curious.)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jacqui, this problem with two types of quotes has driven me crazy!! Oh, how I needed to see this much earlier. I’m saving this safely for future reference. I have a particular issue where if I write something on pages on my iPad and then go to pages on my Mac the quote marks are different! Grrr … I hope your advice here will come in great use. As for em marks, on my keyboard if I press ‘opt’ and the dash mark I get an em mark.

    Liked by 2 people

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