Take a walk on the wild side—nonbreaking space edition

Why nonbreaking spaces?

Line breaks like



World War

hinder readability because readers have to scan to the next line before they receive the information that completes the concept they’re reading about. In these cases, we want to keep the words together, and the best method is to use a nonbreaking space.

I once worked with a company that output its final reports from Word, and whenever something like “$6 million” broke over a line, the in-house staff would use a soft return before the “$6” to push it to the next line. In general, using soft returns is poor practice, because if you delete anything from the line above, you end up with a short line or unsightly gaps (if the text has been fully justified). It’s also poor practice for text that may be repurposed for a reprint or in a different medium: whenever the text reflows, the soft return will yield a shortened line that buggers up the flow of the text.

Instead, a nonbreaking space between “$6” and “million” would tell Word not to break a line at that point. It would keep the entity of “$6 million” together, without disrupting the line length.

You can insert a nonbreaking space in Word by using the shortcut key Option + Space on a Mac or Ctrl + Shift + Space on a PC. The control code for nonbreaking spaces in Word’s Find and Find & Replace functions is ^s.

Isn’t it a proofreader’s job to catch bad breaks?

In a traditional print workflow, the proofreader flags these instances of bad line breaks for the designer. But changing them at the copy-editing stage would head these problems off at the pass and allow the proofreader to focus on other typos and design infelicities that a global search wouldn’t catch. These kinds of global changes are also much easier to do at copy editing—an instance of where a few seconds of effort on the copy editor’s part can save the proofreader a lot of time.

Further, for text destined for a digital format—say a website or an ebook—adding nonbreaking spaces at the copy edit will ensure that the text appears as it should, regardless of reflow.

Wildcard searches for nonbreaking spaces

To save you from having to search each case individually, here are some wildcard searches that can help you do global searches for situations that require a nonbreaking space. This list isn’t exhaustive but should cover the most common cases.

Make sure you have checked off “Use Wildcards” in Word’s Find and Replace dialog box. In some cases, you can safely use the Replace All button; in others, you should go through each occurrence and evaluate it individually.

(Some workflows expect the designer to make these global changes. In InDesign, the codes are different, and I won’t cover them here, but the situations in which you would use the nonbreaking spaces are the same, so you can still use the list below as a reference.)

Dates and times


Depending on style:

Find what Replace with Notes
([0-9]) (<[ap]m>) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
([0-9]) ([ap].m.) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all

These searches will put a nonbreaking space after a digit and before “am”/“a.m.” and “pm”/“p.m.”


Depending on style:

Find what Replace with Notes
(<[ADFJMNOS][A-z]{2,8}>) ([0-9]) \1^s\2 Evaluate case by case
(<[ADFJMNOS][A-z]{2,8}>.) ([0-9]) \1^s\2 Evaluate case by case

These will put a nonbreaking space both between the month and date and between the month and year (e.g., June 15, 2014 or June 2014).

Transpose the stuff in the parentheses if your style is to state the date before the month (e.g., 25 July).

BC, AD, BCE, etc.

Depending on style:

Find what Replace with Notes
([0-9]) (<[BC]>) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
([0-9]) (<[AD]>) OR (<[AD]>) ([0-9]) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
([0-9]) (<BCE>) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
([0-9]) (<CE>) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
([0-9]) (<BP>) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all

These searches will put a nonbreaking space between the year and AD/BC; BC/BCE; or BP (before present).


Depending on style:

Find what Replace with Notes
(<c.>) ([0-9]) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all
(<ca.>) ([0-9]) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all

These searches will put a nonbreaking spaces after “c.” or “ca.” for circa.


If you are using the spaced en dash (rather than a closed em dash), the first space should be nonbreaking. (The pound sign # should be replaced with a tap of the space bar when typing these into the “Find what” box.)

Find what Replace with Notes
#– ^s– Safe to replace all

Same thing if you have spaced ellipses:

Find what Replace with Notes
#… ^s… Safe to replace all

(In French, there’s a nonbreaking space before colons and sometimes exclamation points and semicolons. If the text was created with the French dictionary and autocorrect on, those nonbreaking spaces were probably automatically inserted; otherwise you may have to put them in.)



If your style has a space between initials, that space should be nonbreaking:

Find what Replace with Notes
([A-Z].) ([A-Z].) \1^s\2 Probably safer to evaluate case by case

(If your style has a space between initials but no periods, then, for the love of all that is merciful, ask whoever decided on this readability-hindering style to change it.)

Honorifics, etc.

Again, replace # with a tap of the space bar in the “Find what” box.

Find what Replace with Notes
<([DM][rs]{1,2}.)# \1^s Safe to replace all

This search puts a nonbreaking space after “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” “Mr.,” and “Dr.”

Find what Replace with Notes
<(St.)#([A-Z]) \1^s\2 Evaluate case by case

This search puts a nonbreaking space after “St.” Although the uppercase letter that follows probably makes it safe to replace all in most situations, evaluating case by case will let you exclude instances where “St.” is used as an abbreviation for something other that “Saint.”

And, once again, replacing # with an actual space in the “Find what” box:

Find what Replace with Notes
#(<Jr>) ^s\1 Safe to replace all

This search puts a nonbreaking space before “Jr.”

Numbers and units

The most common problem is a break between the number and “million”:

Find what Replace with Notes
([0-9]) ([bmqt]?{1,5}llion) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all

This search should replace the space between any digit and “million,” “billion,” “trillion,” “quadrillion,” and “quintillion.”

For cookbooks, these searches will cover most cases where you’d need a nonbreaking space. In all cases you can replace all.

Find what Replace with
([0-9]) (tsp) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (Tbsp) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (cup) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (lb) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (oz) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (mL) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (L) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (hour) \1^s\2
([0-9]) (minute) \1^s\2

If your style calls for a space before °C or °F, do an additional search for

([0-9]) (°[CF]) \1^s\2

In all other contexts, especially scientific ones, there are too many units for me to offer a canned wildcard search that will cover all of them, so just do global searches as you come across them (replace UNIT with your unit name).

Find what Replace with
([0-9]) (UNIT) \1^s\2

For example:

Find what Replace with
([0-9]) (kg) \1^s\2


Find what Replace with Notes
(et) (al.) \1^s\2 Safe to replace all

This search keeps et al. together

Find what Replace with Notes
(War) (I{1,2}) \1^s\2 Evaluate case by case

This search will work for both World War I and World War II.

In text that uses binominal nomenclature where the genus is abbreviated (e.g., E. coli), the genus and species should stay together for readability. With your cursor in the “Find what” box, go to the “Format” button at the bottom of the dialog box, select “Font,” then select “Italic.”

Find what Replace with Notes
([A-Z].) ([a-z]) \1^s\2 Evaluate case by case

For text that features math, you’ll want to add nonbreaking spaces before symbols for operations (e.g., +, –, ×, ÷, ±) and possibly also after.

Be on the lookout for these kinds of constructions, where the nonbreaking space should also be used:

  • Section A, Chapter 1, note 5
  • Boeing 747
  • 137 Main Street

Working with designers

Unfortunately, in a Word-to-InDesign workflow, the nonbreaking space (Command + Option + x on a Mac and Ctrl + Alt + x on a PC in InDesign) sometimes doesn’t come through properly. Occasionally it renders as a fixed-width nonbreaking space (which you don’t want, especially for justified texts, because it causes uneven spacing) or as a weird nonsense glyph. Alert the designer that you’ve used a nonbreaking space when you submit your manuscript so that he or she can replace it with a variable-width nonbreaking space if either of those glitches happens.

Text destined for digital

Again, if starting from Word, the nonbreaking space may not come through properly in the conversion process, but they’re important for readability in text that will reflow. The HTML code for nonbreaking spaces is &nbsp;. Talk to whoever is responsible for the conversion to digital to see whether it may be best to search for ^s and replace it with &nbsp; (or whatever the markup system you’re using uses for nonbreaking space) in Word before you submit it for e-production.


This list is meant to cover common cases only. If there’s an obvious one I’ve missed (or if you notice an error in any of the above), please let me know and I’ll add it.

Editors’ show and tell: time-saving tips and tricks

We kicked off the 2013–2014 EAC-BC meeting season last evening with a packed house and an editors’ show and tell of some of our favourite time-savers. Here’s a summary*:

Fact checking

  • Frances Peck showed us CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute database, which is handy if you need to work with a document that has legal citations or references to acts and regulations. The searchable database covers both federal and provincial case law and has up-to-date wording of legislation. The University of Victoria Libraries vouch for the database’s reliability.
  • I mentioned the Library of Congress Authorities as a reliable place to check names.
  • Lana Okerlund told us about GeoBC for fact checking B.C. place names.
  • Naomi Pauls and Jennifer Getsinger both mentioned the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base for place names within Canada.
  • I also told the crowd about SearchOpener, which I’d mentioned in a previous post. The tool lets you perform multiple Google searches at once—a boon for checking fact-heavy texts.

Notes and bibliography

  • Stef Alexandru told us about RefWorks and Zotero, which are bibliographic management programs. The former costs $100 (USD), whereas the latter is free. In both of these programs, you can enter all of your bibliographic information, and it produces a bibliography in the style (e.g., Chicago) that you want.
  • Microsoft Word’s bibliography tool does the same thing (under “Manage Sources”)

The trick to all of these programs, though, is that you would have had to work with your client or author early enough in the writing process for them to have used them from the outset. Nobody knew of any specific tricks for streamlining the editing of notes and bibliographies, although Margaret Shaw later mentioned a guest article on Louise Harnby’s blog by the developer of EditTools, Richard Adin, in which he writes:

The books I work on often have reference lists of several hundred entries. Using the Journals macro, I can check and correct most of the entries in the list automatically. I once timed it and found that I can check about 600 references in approximately 15 minutes; it used to take me hours, especially if I had to look up obscure and rarely cited journal names. Now I look them up once, enter them in the dataset, and move on.

  • For fact checking bibliographical information, one suggestion was to use WorldCat.

Document cleanup

  • Jack Lyon’s Editorium has a FileCleaner Word add-on that helps with a lot of common search-and-replace cleanup steps. NoteStripper may also help you prepare a file for design if the designer doesn’t want embedded footnotes or endnotes.
  • Grace Yaginuma told us how to strip all hyperlinks from your file by selecting all (Ctrl + A) and then using Ctrl + Shift + F9.
  • To remove formatting from text on the clipboard, suggested apps include Plain Clip and Format Match.

Ensuring consistency

  • Nobody in the room had tried PerfectIt, but there seemed to be positive views of it on EAC’s listserv. It catches consistency errors that Word’s spelling and grammar checkers miss, including hyphenation, capitalization, and treatment of numbers. You can also attach specific dictionaries or style sheets to it.

Author correspondence and queries

  • Theresa Best keeps a series of boilerplate emails in her Drafts folder; another suggestion was to have boilerplate email text as signature files.
  • For queries that you use again and again, consider adding it as an AutoCorrect entry, a trick I use all the time and saves me countless keystrokes. Store longer pieces of boilerplate text as AutoText.


  • Naomi Pauls and Theresa Best talked about the utility of checklists. I concur!

Structural editing

  • A few people in the audience mentioned that a surprising number of editors don’t know about using Outline View or Navigation Pane in Microsoft Word to do outlining and structural editing.
  • One person said Scrivener is a fantastic tool for easily moving large chunks of text around and other aspects of structural editing.

Business administration

  • Janet Love Morrison uses Billings for time tracking and invoicing, and she highly recommends it. Other options recommended include iBiz and FreshBooks. (Someone also mentioned Goggle as a time tracker, but I can’t find anything about it. Can anyone help?)
  • Theresa Best has just begun using Tom’s Planner, which she described as a free and intuitive project-management program.
  • Peter Moskos mentioned that years ago, his firm had invested in FastTrack Schedule, which cost a few hundred dollars but, he said, was worth every penny, especially for creating schedules for proposals.
  • One recommended scheduling app for arranging meetings is Doodle.com.

Editors’ wish list

  • Naomi Pauls said that she’d like to see a style sheet app that lets you choose style options easily rather than having to key them in. (Being able to have your word process0r reference it while checking the document would be a plus.)
  • Someone else proposed a resource that would be a kind of cheat sheet to summarize the main differences between the major style guides, to make it easier to jump from one to another when working on different projects.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting and especially those who shared their tips and tricks!

*Although I knew some names at the meeting, I didn’t catch all of the names of the contributors (or I’d forgotten who’d said what). If you see an entry here and thought, “Hey—that’s me!” please send me a note, and I’ll be happy to add your name.

Cookbook indexing in Microsoft Word

I’ve just wrapped up a cookbook index, and while I was putting it together I found myself referring to notes I’d made a while ago for a friend who wanted to do cookbook indexing but didn’t want to invest in indexing software. When I worked in house, I’d prepared several cookbook indexes using only Microsoft Word and figured out, through trial and error, a reasonably efficient system. I figured I’d share my notes here for anyone interested. If you have a client with a specific house style, you might have to adjust the approach a bit.

What follows isn’t a guide for writing a good cookbook index. For that kind of information, I’d suggest “A Piece of Cake? Cookbook Indexing–Basic Guidelines and Resources” by Cynthia D. Bertelsen and Recipes into Type by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (relevant excerpt about indexes here). The notes below are just a step-by-step system you can follow to take advantage of Word’s functions when creating a cookbook index even though it ordinarily isn’t a great program to use for indexing.


Specialized indexing software is invaluable if you’re indexing most nonfiction titles, but a cookbook index has a straightforward structure that Word can easily accommodate.  The key is to keep the following in mind:

  • As tempting as it might be to sort as you go along—as indexing software allows you to do—don’t. You’ll have a much easier time if you alphabetize near the end.
  • The pages may not be final when you start data entry. Be prepared to adjust your locators if they move around.
  • Microsoft Word does not sort letter by letter; you may have to go through your index at the end and tweak the ordering of the entries.

1. Data entry

a) Start with the first recipe. Key in the recipe title verbatim (or copy and paste from a PDF), along with the page range. If the recipe has a photo, add that page number in italics.

Type the title in as it appears if it starts with a descriptor:

Deen’s Buttered Bacon Rolls, 108–9, 109

If the title starts with a main ingredient, state the main ingredient category first, followed by a comma. Keep everything on the same line for now.

chickpeas, Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55

b) Copy the recipe title and locator (the highlighted part):

chickpeas, Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55

c) Paste the recipe title and locator after keying in all other main ingredients and broad categories (like “beef,” “fish,” “salads,” “sauces,” etc.) on separate lines:

green onions, Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55
quinoa, Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55
salads, Chickpea, Green Onion, and Quinoa Salad, 54–55

d) If the recipe title starts with more than one descriptor, add entries for all possible inversions that readers might look up. Add a special mark like an asterisk, which indicates that this entry could be considered for cutting if space is tight:

Buttered Bacon Rolls, Deen’s, 108–9, 109*

e) Key in any subrecipe titles and page ranges, under an appropriate category if necessary. If the subrecipe title is generic, you may also have to add the full recipe title for clarity. Append a double-asterisk, indicating that this is a subrecipe:

dressing, Special Dressing, for Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55**

f) Index special ingredients or techniques only if they are defined/discussed in detail. If the book contains many definitions, you may want to indicate these by setting the locators in boldface. Again, append a double-asterisk:

cold smoking, 56, 56–59**

g) Repeat steps 1a to 1e for all recipes in the cookbook, proceeding in order. Apply 1f as needed, as you go along.

h) Add any logical cross-references.

beef. See also veal

i) Run a spell check on the index.

j) Save this file as index_v1.

k) Once the cookbook’s pages have been finalized, confirm locators, making any necessary adjustments. Save index_v1.

2. Structuring

a) Alphabetize: select all, go to Table → Sort… → Sort by paragraphs, ascending.

b) You’ll have lists like these:

beef, Chinese Five-Spice Beef Short Ribs
beef, Curried Beef and Vegetable Skewers
beef, Grilled Garam Masala Burgers
beef, Wine-Marinated Prime Rib Roast
beef. See also veal

Move the general category and any cross-references to the top, then replace the category in all other entries with a tab indent by selecting that segment of text and using Word’s Find and Replace function.

beef. See also veal
     Chinese Five-Spice Beef Short Ribs
     Curried Beef and Vegetable Skewers
     Grilled Garam Masala Burgers
     Wine-Marinated Prime Rib Roast

Go through the index and repeat this step for all categories that have two or more subentries.

c) For main ingredient categories that have only one recipe, just invert the recipe name to showcase that ingredient first:

quinoa, Chickpea, Green Onion and Quinoa Salad, 54–55


Quinoa, Green Onion and Chickpea Salad, 54–55

d) Add line spaces after the end of each section that begins with the same letter. Add group headings “A,” “B,” etc. before each section only if there is enough room.

e) Add a headnote mentioning that photos are referenced in italics and definitions in boldface.

f) Save as index_v2.

3. Cutting to spec and finalizing the index

a) Save as index_v3.

b) If the index is too long, consider first eliminating whole categories that readers are unlikely to look up or that are redundant. For example, if the book itself has a section devoted to desserts, having a dessert category in the index is not needed.

c) If the index is still too long, consider combining some categories and adding cross-references. For example, if you have divided “fish” and “shellfish,” consider combining them under “seafood” and adding cross-references to the new category under both “fish” and “shellfish.” Doing so will allow you to cut duplicates of recipes that include both fish and shellfish.

d) If the index is still too long, consider cutting all subrecipes and special ingredients/techniques, which you’d marked off earlier with double-asterisks.

(If the index needs a lot of cutting and you’re confident you will need to cut all entries marked off with double-asterisks, you can use Word’s Replace function to get rid of all of them at once. If you’re comfortable with wildcard searches, place your cursor at the top of the document, then, in the Replace dialogue box, put [!^13]@\*\*^13 in the “Find what” field and nothing in the “Replace with” field. Make sure “Use wildcards” is checked. Clicking “Replace all” should get rid of any lines that end with a double-asterisk.)

e) If the index is still too long, evaluate for cutting or abridging only those entries that have an asterisk. (Never cut out or modify an entry that matches the recipe title exactly.) If it makes sense to cut the whole entry, do it. You could also cut part of the title if it refers to sauces and garnishes that aren’t a fundamental part of the dish.

f) Delete all the asterisks. (Using the Replace function, put * in the “Find what” field and nothing in the “Replace with” field.)

g) Edit the index as outlined in Chicago 16.133, in particular double-checking alphabetization, then save index_v3 and submit it.

Versioning system

  • Index_v1: This version makes it easier to update locators if pages—especially if spreads or larger groups of pages—are moved around.
  • Index_v2: Go back to this version if the publisher decides to add pages to allow more room for the index.
  • Index_v3: Your final submitted index.