Amazon’s Kindle Create for Ebooks

Have you heard about Kindle Create from Amazon? It’s a free service for self-publishers to format ebooks and print books to sell on Amazon. It will accept a Word .doc or .docx file and allow the publisher to create a “custom” ebook.

I’ve been fiddling around with it for a while, trying to figure out the best, easiest ways to use the program. There are things about it I like; and things I dislike thoroughly. So first, the pros and cons (in my rarely humble opinion):

PROS
  • Relatively intuitive and user friendly (an 8 out of 10 for ease of use)
  • Allows for some customization
  • Foolproof as far as creating a functioning ebook
  • Help pages are readily available (I give them a 6 out of 10 for usefulness)
CONS
  • It’s a proprietary format that can only be used on Amazon (Big consideration, given that you cannot use your formatted ebook for any purpose other than selling on Amazon. You will have to format an EPUB for other retailers.)
  • Themes are clunky (I don’t think a book designer had a hand in creating the styles. The results aren’t awful, but they don’t look very sophisticated either.)
  • Making batch changes is not possible (that I can figure out)
  • There is a Find function, but no Replace function
  • Uses page view only, rather than an adjustable Web layout view
  • Cannot edit with the Previewer open (Makes proofreading even more tedious.)

Before You Begin

As with any type of format, it’s Garbage In, Garbage Out. Your source document must be in tip-top shape–edited, polished, proofread–and as clean as you can make it against unwanted coding. (I’ve written extensively in this blog about the importance of a clean source doc and how to efficiently get it into shape.) I tried different levels of styling to see what the program will accept and what it won’t. I found that the best way is, in Word, to set up the body text or Normal style as if the doc is formatted for an ebook, but to leave the headings, front matter and back matter unstyled. Place all front and back matter in the order you want for the finished book. (And big pro, don’t worry about the table of contents–Kindle Create will generate it for you.) I also used tags to note where I want page breaks, scene breaks, and special paragraphs (the tags serve as search terms).

Above is a clean doc, styled in Normal, with Heading 1 applied for my own purposes in Word. Kindle Create doesn’t appear to recognize heading styles. And notice, no page or section breaks.

If you want to link to other works (Amazon listings only), your website, blog, social media or Amazon Author Page, create the links in the Word document. (All the hyperlinks I created in the Word doc worked just fine in the KC program.)

Step by Step in Kindle Create

1. When you first open the program a box will appear that asks you what type of project you are creating, and the language (the program supports a multitude of languages).

2. Next, open a Word .doc or .docx file. It will be converted. (If the conversion isn’t successful, that can only mean that you’ve done some damage to the Word doc. You will have to scrub it clean and copy/paste it into a text editor to remove destructive coding.)

Above, the loaded and converted Word doc. Basically no styling. The tag you see == is a search term, my indicator for page break.

3. Now select a theme. KC offers four. (The icon is on the upper right of the screen. Click it for a dropdown menu.)

4. Apply element formatting. In the Text Properties pane on the right side of the screen KC has broken down the “elements” into Common Element (the body of the work); Title Pages; and Book Start and End Pages (front and back matter). In a work that is text-heavy, such as a novel or narrative non-fiction, you will be able to find just about everything you need. (I’d be reluctant to use this program for any non-fiction project that requires sophisticated styling and multiple images.) To apply an element (actually, a style), set your cursor at the beginning of the text and then click on the option you want.

You can modify the “elements” to an extent. On the tool pane to the right click on “Formatting”. Any item that isn’t grayed out can be modified. For instance, if you want more or less space above or below your chapter headings, you can adjust them. Be aware, though, modifying one does NOT modify them all, and it does not change the element styling. So you will have to go through your book and modify each element individually. (Here is where using tags is helpful. Use the tag as a search term in the Find box.) You can also clear the formatting, if you wish, and apply all new formatting. If you make a mistake use Ctrl+z to undo the mistake.

In the above example, I changed the spacing above and below the chapter heading. For the first paragraph, I set a zero indent. (KC does offer a drop cap option. Personally, I hate drop caps in ebooks–don’t actually love them in print either. The option is there if you want it.)

Customizing the styling works on multiple paragraphs, too. For instance, in the book I was using for practice, I disliked how KC set up the copyright page. So instead I went to the first line, right clicked, and selected “insert a section break”. This put my material on its own page. Then I selected all the text and styled it.

With the text selected, you can see the options for custom formatting in the right hand tool pane. Click “Clear” to remove all formatting.

Now it’s time for last looks. If you used tags, make sure they are all deleted. Scroll through the section list in the left hand pane and make sure you’ve listed all your chapters/sections.

Once all the formatting is done, time to create your table of contents. In the above image you can see all the start pages in each section. Click on a page. The right tool pane displays “Section Properties”. Check the box if you want the section included in the table of contents. You can also customize what shows up in the list of entries. Next, go to the Title Page, right click and select “Insert Table of Contents”. (The ToC itself cannot be edited. So if you goof, or want to make changes, you will have to do so in the ebook itself.)

This is quick and easy–but I heartily dislike that I cannot modify the heading. If you will use this program for a print layout, KC will insert page numbers for you.

Now it’s time to preview your ebook and run it through its paces with various font faces, font sizes, and different devices.

The previewer does a fairly good job with a nice display. It leads to my biggest gripe with the KC program. I’m a huge proponent of proofreading. With every ebook I format, the author gets a chance to proofread it. The best way to proofread an ebook is to load it up on a device and go through it line by line. That way you can catch not only typos, but errors in formatting, too. If there’s a way to generate a proof file from KC, I can’t find it. (I haven’t gone so far as to try publishing my practice books. I’m assuming clicking “Publish” will take you to KDP.) You can use the previewer for proofreading since you can see the formatting, but with the previewer open you cannot do any editing. So it’s open, close, try to remember where you are, on and on and on. Ridiculous. My best suggestion is to have a markup doc (in Word) open as you go through the text in the previewer. Once done, transfer any changes to the ebook in KC.

What About Images?

Inserting images is easy. Place your cursor where you want the image, right click and select “insert image”. By clicking on the image, a tool pane opens that displays Image Properties. You can kind of size your image, position it and add alternative text.

The images I played with scaled pretty well in the previewer. Keep in mind, any image used in the print file must be at least 300 dpi. For the ebook, 96 dpi is sufficient. (Do not insert your cover! That will cause two covers to be displayed and that’s a seriously rookie mistake.)

What about print?

I haven’t messed around with that yet. So that will be in another post.

My Conclusion

For the self-publisher on a tight budget who intends to use KDP Select, this is a reasonable option. It produces a product that will work properly on any Kindle device or app.

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So, Dear Readers, does anyone have a book they formatted with Kindle Create they’d like to link to in the comments?

 

Creating Custom Templates in MS Word

I have come to the bittersweet conclusion that y’all don’t need my formatting wizardry much anymore. At least not you fiction writers. The good news is the reason why: The major sites for self-publishing have caught up with the tools most commonly in use (mostly, Word), and the conversions are better than ever. You can upload a formatted Word doc to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Direct2Digital and, if you’ve followed the basic best practices for ebook formatting, the results will be professional. You can even use Word to lay out a print edition for Amazon. (And if your version of Word has the capability, you can export a pdf that will work for IngramSpark.)

The biggest problem Do-It-Yourselfers run into isn’t ability, but lack of experience. I do multiple ebook formats and print layouts every week. My routines are down pat. But when you’re only doing one format a year it can be like re-inventing the wheel each time.

The solution? Make custom templates. You can make multiple templates: one for composition; another for editing; one for ebook formatting; another for print layouts. (Don’t be put off by the word “template.” If you are using MS Word, then with every new document you create you are using a template–Word’s template.)

For an ebook it’s super easy to make a boilerplate template that includes your standard front and back matter. When you’re ready to format, all you have to do is fill in the blanks, update whatever needs updating, import your text, style the headings and such. Boom. Twenty minutes. Ready to go.

Below is a custom template I made for a friend:

STEP BY STEP TO CREATE A TEMPLATE

  1. Open a new blank doc in Word.
  2. Save As into a .dotx file and give it a name such as Ebook Template.dotx
    Word will place the file into a folder called Custom Office Templates. (You can, if you wish, create your own  template folder, and then copy/paste your template into that.)
  3. Open the Styles pane and click “Manage Styles”
    In the toolbox:
    Check the box for “New documents based on this template”
    Hide or delete any styles you do not want showing in your template
    Click Okay.
  4. In the Styles pane click “Options…”
    Check the boxes that best fit how you work.
  5. Modify and/or create new styles for use in this template.
    NOTE: It’s unnecessary to do more than the basics that you will require in a bare bones format. If you need additional styles for a project it’s super easy to add them to your working document. Or, you can update the template itself.

The sample above is a template I created for markup documents to provide to my clients when they are proofreading their ebooks. It has only four paragraph styles and two character styles. The navigation guide is created automatically when I use Heading styles. Super simple.

USING YOUR TEMPLATE

To use the template to create a new document:

  1. Open the template
  2. Save As into a .docx file with a new name (MyOpusMagnus.docx)
  3. Start typing (Normal will be the default style. Apply other styles as necessary.)

To use the template for existing text (requires some prep work):

  1. Open the doc containing the text you want to use
  2. Save As with a new file name to preserve the original
  3. Tag the italics; make sure all scene breaks are clearly marked; make sure all deliberate blank lines are clearly marked (such as stanza breaks in poems)
  4. Delete all tabs; convert any soft returns into hard returns*
  5. Copy the text and paste it into a text editor (such as Notepad on a PC)
  6. Clean up the text to remove extraneous formatting, extra spaces and unneeded blank lines
  7. In Word, open the template
  8. Save As into a .docx file with your document name
  9. Copy the cleaned up text in the text editor and paste it into your new doc (everything will be styled as Normal)
  10. Restore the italics
  11. Go through the doc and apply styles where necessary
  • *Quick way to delete tabs with Find/Replace. In the Find field type ^t and leave the Replace field blank. Click Replace All.
  • Convert soft returns with Find/Replace: In the Find field type ^l and in the Replace field type ^p. Click Replace All.

Crafting a template for a print layout is a little trickier. It’ll probably take another blog post. The same principles apply. It’s all about styles. If you all want a post about print layouts, say the word and I’ll get on it.

By the way, if your do-it-yourselfing needs a bit of a jumpstart, I’m more than happy to create a custom ebook template for you. It’ll cost you ten to twenty-five bucks, depending on the complexity, but you’ll be able to use it over and over again for stellar results every time. Contact me at jayewmanus at gmail dot com.

Two Quick, Easy No-Cost Ways to Convert a PDF into a Word Doc

There are two types of PDF files that concern writers and from which writers would like to extract editable text.

The first is created by exporting a text document from a word processor or publishing program into a PDF file. The second type is created by scanning printed material and producing a PDF file.

(The second type, the scan, is actually an image file that requires further conversion via OCR (optical character recognition). OCR conversion requires special software, and it falls into the category of “you get what you pay for” and will be the subject of another blog post.)

This post concerns the first type of PDF. A common request I get is: “I had someone do a print layout for my book and it’s been edited and updated, but it’s in a PDF and I need a final copy as a Word doc. Can you help?”  No problem. It takes just a minute, so I don’t charge people to do it. (I do, however, charge an arm and a leg to clean up conversions. Just kidding, only an arm.)

The good news: Converting a PDF file into a Word doc is easier than ever and the results are better, too. And, you probably have the tools on your computer already.

The bad news: Conversion is always a mixed bag—some results are vastly superior and some will make you tear your hair out.

The good news about the bad news is that if you know what is happening, you can fix it without ending up in a weepy, shivering, fetal ball. Or sending people like me an anxious email saying, “I’ve spent months trying to fix this fripping’ Word doc and I’ve torn all my hair out and can you please, please, please help meeeeee!” Then wondering what is wrong with you when in a couple of hours I send you a fully restored Word doc—nothing wrong with you, but I’ve recovered millions of words from PDF files and pretty much know what I’m doing. 😉

Use MS Word to Convert the PDF

If you have a version of MS Word that is capable of exporting a PDF file then it is capable of importing a PDF file. How to know? Open a doc in Word and click Save As. In the tool box is a dropdown menu of different file types: .doc, .docx, .rtf,. txt, and a bunch of others. If the list includes PDF, you’re golden. Conversion is as easy as opening a document.

In Word, click on File > Open and select the PDF file you want to open. (Be patient. Depending on how fast your computer is and how large the PDF file is, conversion may take several minutes.)

Once it is open on your computer do a SAVE AS into the DOCX file format.

In the example the Show feature is activated so you can see the paragraph returns and other formatting.

What I like about this method:

  • Headers and footers are rendered as headers and footers (for the most part, depending on how the original PDF was created), meaning they can be quickly deleted or safely ignored.
  • It’s not horrible about retaining paragraphs.

The disadvantages:

  • It can hide hyphenation. (Sometimes the hyphenation is there but invisible and Word will not allow a search for them—if this occurs, you’ll need a text editor to clean them up. See below.)
  • If the fonts used in the pdf are not available on your computer, Word will substitute fonts. If Word is unable to read the font, it will insert black boxes, pink boxes or gibberish.
  • Images and other graphics can make the file difficult or impossible to open. This works best for a text-only document.
  • Depending on the source PDF, Word can go into overdrive attempting to retain the formatting. That can result in massive (and slow!) files.

Use Google Drive to Convert the PDF

You may have to create a Google account (gmail account) in order to use Google Drive, but it’s free and widely available.

  1. Go to Google Apps > Drive
  2. Click New > File Upload
  3. Select the PDF file you want to convert
  4. When the box opens saying “1 Upload Complete”, click on the file name
  5. Tell it to “Open with Google Docs”
  6. File > Download As > Microsoft Word (docx)
  7. Open the downloaded file in Word
  8. Save As to make sure the new Word doc is on your computer.

The advantages:

  • The PDF file is editable in Google Docs, so if you don’t have Word or don’t want to use it, you can work on the PDF directly. VERY IMPORTANT!: This version remains on the cloud, not your computer, so if you want it saved on your computer you will have to download it.
  • No real formatting to fight with.
  • It makes very little effort to convert images and graphics during conversion, so it rarely chokes up or crashes because of it.

The disadvantages:

  • Headers and footers will have to be removed manually.
  • Hyphenation will have to be cleaned up manually.
  • Spacing issues.
  • Not fabulous about retaining paragraphs.

Tips for Making Clean Up Merely Mildly Annoying (as opposed to having you curled up in a fetal ball, quietly weeping)

  • Forget trying to retain the formatting from the PDF file. The text is what matters, focus on it.
  • Work in Web Layout view rather than Print Layout view so that you can adjust the width of the screen to approximate the width of the PDF text. This will make checking for and fixing wayward paragraphs easier.
  • Make sure all scene breaks, page breaks and deliberate blank lines are clearly tagged with some kind of marker so you know exactly where they are. Don’t use extra hard returns or actual page breaks to mark them—you’ll regret it.
  • If possible, work with the Word doc and the PDF open on the screen side by side so you can see scene breaks, page breaks, deliberate blank lines and special formatting such as italics.
  • Activate the Show feature (click the pilcrow icon ¶ in the Home Ribbon menu) so you can see such things as paragraph returns, soft returns, tabs and spaces.
  • If Word is having trouble reading a font, you will need to try another method. Contact me (see below) and I’ll see if I can find a solution for you.
  • Clear the formatting. First, make sure all your scene breaks, page breaks and deliberate blank lines are clearly marked. Second, tag your italics (easy way: https://jwmanus.wordpress.com/tag/italics-in-ebooks/). To clear the formatting. Ctrl+a to select all text then click the Clear All Formatting icon in the Home Ribbon. This will leave you with a blank slate, essentially, and remove any unwanted formatting Word has applied. Apply the Normal style to the selected text then modify the style so it suits you. Restore the italics.

Quick Find/Replace terms useful for clean up:

Get rid of unwanted page breaks:
In the Find field: ^m
In the Replace field: leave blank
Replace All

Get rid of unwanted section breaks:
In the Find field: ^b
In the Replace field: leave blank
Replace All

Turn soft returns into hard returns:
In the Find field: ^l
In the Replace field: ^p
Replace All

To find and delete unwanted hyphens (in most cases, discretionary hyphens that are turned into single dashes have a space after them):
In the Find field: -(hit the space bar once to create a blank space)
In the Replace field: leave blank
Replace All

What if Word has hidden the hyphens?

It’s a common problem. It’s frustrating because you might never know it happened until you format your book as an ebook or send it in an email to someone. To find out if Word has done this, you will need a text editor. On a Windows machine, Notepad works fine. Open a blank document in the text editor. Use Ctrl+a to select all the text in the Word doc. Copy it, then paste it into the text editor. If you see this character ¬ then Word has replaced the hyphenation with “non-characters” that will cause trouble down the line. Word’s Find/Replace won’t do you any good. You will need to tag your italics, copy/paste the entire document into the text editor then use the editor’s Find/Replace function to delete the hyphenation.

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If neither of these conversion methods works for you, feel free to contact me at jayewmanus at gmail.com. I have other tools on hand that can convert difficult files. If the conversion does work for you, but you’re struggling with restoring the text, explain your problem in the comments and let’s figure it out.

 

 

 

 

Kindle Previewer: New and (really!) Improved

I’ve been using Amazon’s Kindle Previewer app ever since I started formatting ebooks. Have to say, I was never much impressed with it. It had some useful features and it was a quick way to convert an epub file into a mobi file, and a sort of quick way to convert a Word doc into a mobi file so I could load it onto a Kindle or tablet. As for viewing a book on the computer? Forget it. It looked awful and the screen size couldn’t be adjusted. For some tasks it was essential, but I never fully trusted it to give me a hundred percent true rendering of my ebooks.

Then I got a brand new computer and when I downloaded the Kindle Previewer, I got the newest version.

And oh my God, Amazon, what have you done?

Look at this!

The display is big and clear and along with the “Kindle” view there are thumbnails of individual page screens.

Along with a much easier, clearer to understand user interface (everything you need is right there in a menu panel on the left side of the screen), it also does some nifty tricks. Like popping up footnotes.

It also gives a great rendering of a smart phone screen. This is essential for checking alignment and making sure such things as headers aren’t so oversized they look stupid on a small screen.

For those of you, my dear readers, with a Do-It-Yourself frame of mind, this version also converts Word docs. No more need for converting the doc first in MobiPocket and then converting the prc file. Click File > Open Book and select a Word doc and the program will convert it into a mobi file. It won’t be a commercial quality ebook and it won’t build the internal navigation guide, but it does allow you to check your styling and the mobi file can be loaded onto your Kindle or tablet for proofreading.

The program no longer automatically creates a mobi file to place on your computer. You have to ask it to export a file. It takes just a second, so it’s no hassle.

The only downside I’ve discovered is that it’s no longer a good tool for what I call bizarre character checks. When I have questions about whether or not a particular character or symbol will render across the board in all devices, the old version of the Kindle Previewer allows me to do that by viewing the file in DX mode. If I see a question mark or gibberish, I know the character is unsafe and I have to find a substitute. There is no DX mode in this new version. I’m keeping the old version on my other computer specifically for that task.

So, thank you, Amazon, for an amazing new tool! As a client of mine said (after I told him how to use it to create a quick review ebook): “It’s like a little piece of magic from the gods.”

 

MS Word for Writers: Homonym Hunting

Homonyms are a bare bear, am I right?

You know the difference between “faze” and “phase”, but your fingers type “The process didn’t phase him,” and your brain hears “The process didn’t faze him.” While proofreading, copy-blindness fills in the proper word instead of seeing the error, so you don’t even realize you made the mistake until a helpful reader sends you an email about finding the typo in the published book.

Fortunately, MS Word has a tool that helps find homonyms. It’s in Find/Replace: “Sounds Like (English)”.

2018-02-26_Word Sounds Like Search

Go to Home > Editing > Replace > More. Check the box for “Sounds Like (English)”. Enter a homonym you’re unsure of. For example “faze”. Click “Find Next” and Word will find any word that sounds like faze, including “phase”. You can double-check each instance and determine if you’ve used the correct word.

To make sure you find all the word forms, such as fazed, fazing or unfazed, check the box for “Find all word forms (English)”, too.

This also works for words with apostrophes, such as “it’s”. Mixing up “its” and “it’s” (or God help us, its) is probably the number one homonym mix-up across the board. Searching for them with this method is a bit tedious, but it’s a lot more reliable than trying to root them out during a proofread and much better than letting errors appear in the published book.

To find them type its into the Find field. Check the boxes for “Sounds like (English)” and “Ignore punctuation characters”. Use “Find Next” to search for each instance and determine if you used it correctly. This also works for possessives such as “the Smiths’ house” or “Smith’s house”.

EDITED TO UPDATE: It’s been pointed out that this option is not available in older versions of Word. If your Find/Replace task box doesn’t look like the one pictured above, then this isn’t going to work for you. Sorry.

Uncertain about homonyms? Here’s a terrific resource:

 Alan Cooper’s Homonym List

Happy hunting!

 

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

 

MS Word for Writers: Text to Speech

Because I dislike audio books and because I despise machines that talk to me (No offense, Siri and Alexa, but shut up.) it never occurred to me to explore text-to-speech options in Word. I was having a conversation with a writer in Australia about proofreading. I mentioned that some ereading devices have text-to-speech capability and some writers find it helpful to hear their words in a non-dramatic way. Then he came back with, “Did you know MS Word has text-to-speech capability?”

Well, no, I did not. Now I do. If you are reading this, then you do, too.

Activate text-to-speech in one of two ways:

  • In the main toolbar, in the Quick Access area is a down arrow. Click it to open an options menu. Click “More commands” and that will open the menu.

2018-02-10_Word Text to Speech 2

Or

  • Go to File> Options> Quick Access Toolbar.

Once you are in the “Customize the Quick Access Toolbar” menu, scroll down to either “Read Aloud” or “Speak” (it depends on which version of Word you are using), click it, click “Add” and it will appear in the right hand list that shows which commands are active in your Quick Access menu. Click OK.

2018-02-10_Word Text to Speech

To use text-to-speech, select a passage in your doc and click the icon in the Quick Access Menu. Word will read back your text.

Text-to-Speech for Proofreading

I’m not the best person to ask about using anything audio for proofreading. Here is what my friend in Australia told me he did:

“If you select any piece of a Word document and then click this function it reads the words back to you. I played with this for a while and even considered highlighting the whole document and recording each of the chapters as spoken into my MP3 recorder. I did some more thinking about this realising there must be a better way, searched for exporting SPEAK to MP3 and came across an acronym I have never heard of before. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) which is another feature which can be implemented in Word and exports a complete translation of a document into synthetic speech. It has taken me quite a while to implement on my system—I made a couple of false starts—but now got it working and [it’s] definitely worth the effort. It took about 5 minutes to convert the whole of my 170 A4 pages novel into a series of MP3 files. I can now listen to each of my chapters being read aloud as I read the text in my original Word file and make corrections on the fly. It beats reading line by line with a ruler for example. It is particularly useful in detecting where commas should or shouldn’t be, missing or misspelled words, and the need to identify a speaker somehow in a section of dialogue where identity is otherwise unclear.”

Change the Voice

To change the Text To Speech voice, you have to change it on your computer. Follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click
    Control Panel.
  2. Double-click the Speech icon.
  3. Click the Text To Speech tab.
  4. In the Voice selection box, click the voice that you want to use.
  5. Click OK.

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

 

MS WORD for Writers: Pesky Punctuation: Single and Double Quote Marks, and Apostrophes

You wouldn’t think quote marks (single and double) and apostrophes could be pesky. Word users sometimes have problems mainly for two reasons:

  1. Word is an office productivity program rather than just a word processor. Its built-in grammar rules are set up for business writing rather than for fiction. Don’t believe me? Turn on the grammar checker. Follow its advice, Creative Writers, and you’ll sound like a bureaucrat. Their grammatical rules for using quote marks don’t always apply to fiction or creative nonfiction.
  2. Word’s default is the straight quote/apostrophe. No problem while you’re writing and editing. Problems arise when it comes time to turn your writing into an ebook or print edition. Professional publishing requires curly quotes (aka smart quotes) where the left/open mark is a different character than the right/close mark. Apostrophes always look like a right/close mark—even when they are used at the beginning of a word.

My recommendation for the straight vs. curly quote issue is to toggle on AutoFormat so that Word changes straight to curly quotes automatically while you’re typing.

Go to File>Options>Proofing and click AutoCorrect Options… In the menu box that opens, check the box for ‘“Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”’. Click Okay, be sure to click Okay in the main menu. Done. Now whenever you type the single or double quote character it will be a curly quote.

2018-01-19_Word Autocorrect quote marks

What if you’ve been using straight quotes? Or you, like so many do these days, write sections in other programs or devices, and that program uses straight quotes. When you import or paste the text into your Word doc, the straight quotes remain, filling your doc with a mix of straight and curly quotes.

With AutoFormat turned on, transforming straight quotes into curly quotes is very easy using Find and Replace.

For single quotes/apostrophes:

In the Find field: ‘
In the Replace field: ‘
Replace All

For double quotes:

In the Find field: ”
In the Replace field: ”
Replace All

Word will turn all the marks into curly quotes.

Depending on your version of Word, running those operations can create some wrong-way quote marks. Those are fairly easy to find.

For wrong way quotes after a dash (em, en or single) search for:

Em dash:

In the Find field: ^+”

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

En dash:

In the Find field: ^=”

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

Single dash/hyphen:

In the Find field: -“

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

For left/open single quotes instead of an apostrophe in open contractions (’em, ’round, ’60s, etc.) search for:

In the Find field: (space)’
(When I type (space) it means hit the space bar once to create a blank space.)

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the apostrophe is turned the wrong way, fix it.

British and Australian writers run into a special problem with open contractions. A space+’ looks like a regular open quote for dialogue. It might be easiest to search for the actual words that you’ve contracted—if you can remember what they are. They might turn up in spell check and can be fixed as you find them. There is a search that you can run using wildcards.

In the Find and Replace menu click More to open the full menu. Check the box for “Use wildcards”. You will have to copy and paste a left single quote into the search string.

In the Find field: (space)[‘][a-z]

When you use Find Next, Word will find every left single quote with a space before it and a lower case letter after it. In order to find numbers, such as dates, that have been contracted from, for example, 1960s to ’60s, change the search string to find a range of numbers.

In the Find field: (space)[‘][1-9]

To finish up, doing the following search—

In the Find field: ‘‘ (that’s two single quote marks)

—will root out the remaining wrong way single quote marks that you can fix on a case by case instance.

 

What About Typos?

‘It’s easy to accidentally hit the space bar which not only inserts an unwanted space but also a wrong way quote mark. Like so:

“Now is the time for all good children to line up at the door, said the teacher.

The teacher said, “Come back inside, children.

Basic rules of grammar will help you find those instances. In order to keep the number of search results to a reasonable number and to find only the mistakes, you must copy/paste the left and right quotes into the Find fields. Typing the single or double quote marks into the field will insert straight quotes, and then Word will find so many your eyes will cross. Copying and pasting the correct character is the only way to reasonably search.

To find and fix left/open quote marks that should be right/close marks:

In the Find field: “(space)

Use Find Next to find the typos.

When the typo happens at the end of the paragraph there may or may not be a space after the quote mark. To find those:

In the Find field: “^p

For British and Australian writers, the same general rules apply to single quote marks. Copy/paste the wrong-way turned single quote along with a space.

What About Missing Quote Marks?

I had a writer ask me the other day whether there’s a way in Word to find missing quote marks. Better yet, a way to find and fix missing quote marks automatically. It’s a common typo that’s devilishly difficult to spot while proofreading. Unfortunately, there are so many variables it would be impossible to come up a one-size-fits-all Find and Replace operation.

There is, however, a way to search that will highlight missing quote marks without giving your brain the opportunity to “fill in the blanks with what you meant to do”.

This is a wildcard search that will find every instance of a left/open quote mark closed by right/close quote no matter what or how much text is between them. How does that help find missing quote marks? In the image below you’ll notice there should be a quote mark after “Hey! but the search result goes all the way to the end of the paragraph. If you’re purposefully looking for missing quote marks, you will spot right away that something is amiss. Depending on the size of the doc, this could be a fairly tedious search. The advantage it has over word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence proofreading is that you are looking for and paying attention to just one thing—the missing quote marks.

2018-01-22_Word wildcard missing quoteInsert a search string that exactly matches the string in the image—copy and paste left and right quote marks from the text into the Find field—and check the box for “Use wildcards”. Use Find Next and insert any missing quote marks you find.

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My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.