Posted in Technical (ms word, tex), Tips
Depending on your discipline you write your scientific papers with either MS Word or you prepare them with a more professional text formatter like LaTeX.
Besides scientific papers scientist produce all kinds of other documents. I often notice that those MS-Word prepared documents have an ugly ragged right side, or have a repugnant flood of white space. With a little more effort it is possible to produce text, even with MS Word, with a professional look. Two aspects are important: hyphenation and justification.
When I look at the documents the Dutch ministeries produce, I must come to the conclusion that hyphenation is either never heard off or it is forbidden. In the Dutch language a complication is that in a sequence of nouns the nouns are combined into one word. So the Dutch language has a number of very long words, like “regeringsvoornemen” or “onafhankelijksverklaringstekst”. Using long words in a text without hyphenation makes the text ugly and unclear.
Hyphenation is a brought about by putting soft hyphens in your text. Soft hyphens are places in a word where MS Word could hyphenate that word if the word appears in the danger zone at the right side of the text. MS Word has a design flaw connected to hyphenation: its automatic hyphenation affects only a small fraction of the words that should be hyphenated. The solution is to choose the manual option for hyphenation: Page Layout, Hyphenation, Manual. (in MS Word 2003: Tools, Language, Hyphenation) The user is then shown word after word that could be hyphenated and MS Word suggests a default location in each word where it could be hyphenated. By pressing the <ENTER> key this default choice is adopted, So you either change the location or skip the hyphenation of that particular word, or you do as I always do: quickly pressing <ENTER> for all the words (in MS Word 2003: do no do it too fast, because MS Word 2003 will crash). Now you have a flexible text with quite a number of soft hyphens.
To get more soft hyphens in your text where MS Word could hyphenate, temporarily reduce the text width to about 1/3 of your regular text width. Start the manual hyphenation again. When ready reinstate the correct required text width.
In the Western world there are two acceptable modes of flushing text: (i) flush left, or full justification. If you choose for flushing left you are done now. If you do full justification you have to be careful: the default full justification procedure of MS Word is wrong. It just puts full spaces in the sentences, making the sentence very ugly. However deep hidden, MS Word has a more professional form of justification:
Full justification the way Wordperfect 6.x for Windows does
(in MS Word 2003: Tools, Options, Compatibility)
The Wordperfect way is the choice you want. With this justification micro-adjustments are applied to the sentence and the text looks much better.
Before you send or print you document check whether there are hyphens you find inappropriate and remove them.
What about aligning text on websites?
One of the major flaws of the html standard is that the internet community never has come up with a satisfactory solution for hyphenation. Some browsers accept soft hyphens, but it remains a mess. The complication for the implementation of hyphenation in html text is of course that html text is supposed to look nicely to the reader whatever the width of the window he has opened for displaying the text.
Justifying html text means you have to give up automatic wrapping with varying window width. Just use flush left and manually put hard returns (html tag: <br/>) at the position you want to break the sentences. If you wish you can include hard hyphens there. There are several drawbacks with this beautifying of your web text: (i) it does not wrap with the window size, (ii) you cannot reuse the text because you will have to remove al the line breaks, and (iii) if you want to edit the text, or change its width, you have to remove all earlier inserted line breaks and insert new ones.
You will have to show your text as a pdf file if you really want to have text on your web site with a professional look.
What about centering text?
Centering text is always wrong.