In addition to the regular space that we use every day, simply inserted by pressing the space bar, Word also has other space-like characters that can be really useful when formatting your proposals or other technical documents.
The Non-Breaking Space
Many of you are familiar with the non-breaking space. It is very useful to keep strings of characters or words separated by spaces together, and prevent them from breaking over the end of a line. Examples include dates, e.g. “12 December 2016.” You can easily enter a non-breaking space by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Space. If you have Show/Hide ¶ on (press Ctrl+* to toggle), Word displays a non-breaking space as a degree symbol, °.
The National Institute of Science & Technology check list, item #15, specifies a space between the numerical value and unit symbol, e.g. 100 kW. You should use a non-breaking space for this purpose. If you have a negative numerical value, e.g. −10 dBm, do not use a standard hyphen for the negative symbol, as the hyphen symbol will not ‘stick’ to the following number, and can be left at the end of a line, with the number on the next line. Instead, use a minus symbol, which is the same width as a plus symbol, and will stick to the following number. You can easily insert a minus symbol by typing its Unicode value, 2212, and then pressing Alt+X.
The Zero-Width Space
Called the No-Width Optional Break in Microsoft Word, the zero-width space is useful for breaking long strings of characters that include slashes, such as website URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) or word combinations such as “and/or.” You can insert a no-width optional break in a Word document by going to Insert > Symbol > More Symbols. Word displays the Symbol dialog. Select the Special Characters tab, scroll down to No-Width Optional Break, and then click Insert:
If you have Show/Hide ¶ on, Word displays a no-width optional break as a white box within a white box:
You can also use Word’s Find and Replace function to insert no-width optional breaks after the slashes in your document. Press Ctrl+H to display the Find and Replace dialog. Enter a slash in the Find what box, and enter a slash followed by ^x in the Replace with box:
You can now step through each occurrence of a slash by clicking Find Next, and then clicking Replace to insert the no-width optional break, or Find Next to skip that occurrence and move on to the next slash.
“Wordman’s Word Tips” is sponsored by SMA. Wordman is Dick Eassom, CF APMP Fellow, SMA’s Vice President for Corporate Support. Wordman has been providing advanced Microsoft Word help and training, and custom templates, to proposal professionals for over 20 years. You can read more of Wordman’s articles here.