Tag Archives: special character

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.)

cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition

5 Uses for a Non-Breaking Space

Have you ever seen the non-printing ° symbol and wondered what it was? You’re looking at a non-breaking space.
By using a non-breaking space, we can ensure that we don’t end up breaking a measurement up at the end of a line.

A non-breaking space has intentional and side benefits:

  1. Keep digits with their unit of measurement.
  2. Keep names from splitting over a line break.
  3. Keep long numbers from splitting over a line break.
  4. Identify content copied from a PDF or website.
  5. An easily searchable character for your compositor to replace.

To Find Non-Breaking Spaces

You don’t have to rely on your eyes alone. In the Find field, type ^s to search for non-breaking spaces. You can even pair this code with wildcards to quickly add non-breaking spaces between all digits and their units of measure, or in place of simple spaces in long numbers.

Compositors and others on the design team can use the non-breaking space as a placeholder for another character, often the thin space which Word cannot produce but which makes for elegant text design.

To Type a Non-Breaking Space

On a Mac: opt + spacebar

In Windows: ctrl + shift + spacebar


It’s not just plagiarism that makes an editor look for text copied from elsewhere. The non-breaking spaces in such pasted content can really mess up layout. I see these a lot in article titles in the bibliography or reference list. By changing those to regular spaces, we can save a lot of fixing in page proofs.

To show or hide these spaces and all non-printing characters, click the ¶ icon on the home ribbon.

A non-breaking space sometimes goes by the name of a fixed space or a hard space.

cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition