Tag Archives: font

Finding Imposters: Degrees

Side by side, the imposters are still not always clear.

The degree symbol is used for angles and arcs, temperatures, and the ‘proof’ of alcohol, among other things. You’ll even find it in harmonics. It started as a raised glyph of the digit 0, but best practice in typesetting and design now is to use a true degree symbol designed for the purpose.

The degree symbol is preferred because many fonts style the alternatives in ways that make them look very out of place as a degree symbol.

To Type the Degree Symbol

Insert > Symbol on the ribbon is a fool-proof way to find a degree symbol in MS Word 365. Well, as long as you select the degree symbol and not the masculine ordinal symbol by mistake.

On a Mac, you can also use the keyboard shortcut: opt + shift + 8

Windows users can type the alt code: alt + 248

For XML or HTML, type either &#176 or &deg followed by a semicolon.

To Spot Imposters

Whether it’s because they don’t know how to make a degree symbol or don’t even realize one exists, writers use all sorts of type gymnastics to create something approximating a degree symbol. They’re hard to spot by eye alone; if the writer applied boldface or italics, imposters can be even harder to spot. These tricks can help you find the workaround and make them right:

  • Type a fresh and true degree symbol in every instance; delete the original character. (You can turn off tracking while you do this and just leave one note that you’ve done this throughout.)
  • Find & Replace all true degree symbols with degree highlighted. Then you know that any symbol not highlighted is an imposter. Fix the imposters, then repeat the F&R to remove the highlighting.
  • Change the font to one that treats letters and digits very differently than the degree symbol. (See below.)

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cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition

Fonts for Editing

Font geeks love to debate readability and myriad other details about fonts. The other thing that matters when editing is being able to tell when the wrong character has been used. Font choice can cleverly conceal a wrong character hiding in a document: a 1 looks like an l, a superscript o looks like a °, an ‘ masquerades as a ′…

screen capture showing one and ell are nearly identical in Times New Roman font as well as the similarity between a superscript letter O and a degree symbol.
Times New Roman makes telling the difference between a 1 and an l nearly impossible. The superscript O versus the degree symbol is easier to spot; if you know what it should look like, that is.
colour reveals which character is the one
The pink character in this word is actually the digit one. There are some indicators such as spacing and height, but it’s not easy to tell at usual working magnification.

Changing the font to one that shows a more drastic difference between characters is one solution. Some editors prefer to edit in Helvetica, Calibri, or Verdana for just such a reason. If you modify the font of the “Normal” Style, it’s easy to undo this font change before finalizing the file. The client will never know the trick that helped you spot those apostrophes that should be primes. Just turn off Track Changes when you change the font.


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cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition