Thursday 4 April 2024

Writing Tips: Technology

I have upset people on Twitter this week by telling them to make sure all the quote marks in their manuscripts are curly. You can't type them straight into Blogger. But you can turn on curly quotes in Word and import them into Blogger “like this”. There are no such things as "straight quotes", those are inch and foot marks.

When typewriters were invented, inch and foot marks were provided, and typists used them for quote marks. However, any text that is typeset will have the curly quotes that match the typeface. In some typefaces, the quote marks are less curly, but they are still quote marks, and not the upright inch and foot marks. If you self-publish with "straight quotes", you will look amateurish – this was the word that upset people. The subject has its own Wikipedia entry, but it’s misleading and out of date. You may disagree with me, but if you want your text to look professional, use curly quotes.

If you standardise on double quotes (“), you only use single quotes (‘) for quotes within quotes. There are no exceptions for single words, or the names of plants, or anything you care to mention – whatever you may have been taught at school.

Turn on curly quotes before you start writing – but I've just tried searching and replacing in Word and it worked! Never has before.

Another subject that came up this week – a distraught writer reported that he'd lost the latest version of his work in progress. Fortunately he had an earlier draft, and was able to salvage most of what he'd lost. (I once lost the whole of Chapter 12 and had to rewrite it. It was all about getting lost in the mist on a wolf-haunted Bodmin Moor.)

Don't find yourself in this distressing situation. Get an external hard disk and back up everything from time to time. (I'm sure you can automate this process.) Name new versions fileb, filec and so on.

Back up in the cloud - in Dropbox or similar.

Don't keep an entire novel in one file. Save it chapter by chapter. And while you're writing, save every few sentences. Control, Command or Apple+S. You can customise Word so that the command is Cmd+S and you can type it without taking your eyes off the page. (You can customise most keyboard shortcuts.)

And if you really want to make your life easier, learn to touchtype properly.

More writing tips, and links to the rest.

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