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Date Posted: 09:19:01 05/20/08 Tue
Subject: Funky characters or why MSWord gives me a headache sometimes.
Several times of late I've seen stories go up on the HBX that show up on my monitor (and judging by the comments, other people's as well) with funky characters sprinkled, seemingly randomly, throughout the text. There seems to be a certain amount of confusion about why that's happening, and rather than emailing every author individually, I thought I'd post here. That way, lots of people see the explanation and can share it with other writers as necessary.
I know it's been pointed out that you can change the character encoding option in your browser to fix the issue, and there are two problems with that. One, it doesn't always work, and two, there are a lot of readers out there who will click on a story, see the funky characters, and click out - possibly forming judgments about your work that are both inaccurate and unfair.
The problem, most often, is all about Microsoft. If you write your stories in MSWord - most versions - look at the quotation marks and apostrophes in your Word document. Are they pretty little curly quotes? If so, that's why you're having problems with the HBX and with Voy.
They're called smart tags, and VOY (actually, lots of websites, not just VOY), doesn't like them. How do you get rid of them? There are a couple of ways.
First, in Word, turn off the smart tags. All of mine are off, but you'll want, at the very least, to turn off the "replace straight quotes with smart quotes" option. In my version of Word (2003) the option is under "tools" and "auto correct."
Now, for a story you've already written that has smart tags in it, here's what you can do (two choices).
1) Open the file in Word, save it as a .txt file, open the txt file in Notepad (not MSWord or Wordpad, since those will put the smart quotes back in), and copy/past into your HBX post from Notepad. Notepad strips all special characters, so this should clean things up for you.
2) Open the file in Word and, with Smart Quotes turned off, do a find replace. Copy a curly quote into the find box and a straight quote into the replace box and do a replace all. You'll need to do this at least twice - for left end quotation marks and right end quotation marks. You'll also want to repeat this action everyplace Word has inserted smart tags into your story - quotation marks, apostrophes, the em-dash, and possibly even the ellipsis, though sometimes VOY seems to behave itself with those.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions or if the issue continues to give you problems, feel free to email me. I'll be happy to help.
eta: Thanks to fanficfan's experimentation on the HBX, we now know for certain that you have to make adjustments for quotation marks, apostrophes, ellipses, and dashes (probably both en-dashes and em-dashes).
Last edited by author: Wed May 21, 2008 23:07:33
Edited 1 time.
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