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Have you ever visited a webpage that has strange looking characters displayed where there should be an apostrophe, inverted comma, a hyphen or perhaps dots (periods)? This is more than likely the result of text being copied from Microsoft Word and not being checked for non-standard ASCII characters before being formatted into html.

In it's default configuration, MS Word will automatically change your ' or " to it's own curly version which is not recognised by browsers and will display strange  code, or simply a question mark in a diamond in Firefox.

As a website designer, I insist my clients provide their text in MS Word, and then of course I use a text editor to strip the MS only characters out so the copy can then be formatted correctly. The trick is to simply do a "find and replace" for the unrecognised characters, and replace them with the ordinary (but recognised) ' and " characters (and dots and dashes if required). I use and highly recommend EmEditor Professional because it recognises many different types of coding, and colour codes the appropriate parts for easy recognition and editing.

If you upload your own web pages or articles that originate in MS Word, you can very easily turn off the automatic formatting, which is the culprit responsible for using the non-standard characters.

In earlier versions of Word, do the following:

1) Go to the Tools menu, click "AutoCorrect Options", followed by the "AutoFormat As You Type" tab.
2) Under "Replace as you type", select or clear the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" check box.
3) Check that tab for any other changes Word may make automatically to the coding as you type.

If you use the latest version, Microsoft Word 2007, do the following:

1) Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click "Word Options".
2) Click Proofing.
3) Click AutoCorrect Options.

Of course, if you are like me and have clients who create many documents for purposes other than their website, asking them to change their configuration just to suit you might be a big ask. In this case, it may be easier to simply be aware, and replace the wrong code as you go.

The above information is very important if you are an article author and/or submitter. Ensure the code, or text you use, is as "plain" as it can be, and let the stylesheet(s) on the website you are submitting to govern the look of your text.

If you would like to know more about converting Word Document text to plain text for the web, please contact justweb today for further information.

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Rob - JustWeb

30.11.2008


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