What page am I on in Google Docs?

If you’re used to using Microsoft Word and glancing down to the bottom of the screen to see where you’re up to on a document, you’ll know how simple and intuitive it is:

Similarly, with Adobe Acrobat, you just have a quick look at your dashboard to get the page number:

But when you’re on Google Docs, there is no such counter active on the screen. So how are you supposed to find out what page you’re on in a document? It’s not immediately obvious, but it’s simple when you know how. On desktop computers, you just hover the cursor over the scroll bar on the right to see this pop up:

And there you have it. You’ll also see the current page number in the same place if you use the scroll bar to move through the pages, but that’s not much use if you just want to see the number of the page you’re working on.

On mobile devices using Google Drive, you’ll also see the page number when you press or move the scroll bar, along with headings. However, this will only work if you’re in “Print layout” (settings > Print layout (toggle)). If Print layout is off, the text will be one long stream without page numbers.

Why do I need to know the page number?

It’s handy to know where you’re up to if you’re proofing or editing a document, especially if you’re working against the clock or someone needs to know how far along the document you’ve got, and how much more time you estimate you’ll need.

It’s also useful if you want to refer someone else to a specific point in the document, or compile a list of pages that need attention. Be careful, though – if you make an edit, it can make the whole document past that point re-flow, and change the pagination throughout the rest of the document. Pro tip: to avoid this, work through the comments backwards, so nothing you can do will affect the previous pages.

Why doesn’t Google Docs show the page number automatically?

If you’re working on a document, the page numbers don’t tend to be all that important until the work is published, and it will probably go through many edits and amends, and have images, title pages, notes and all sorts of material inserted into it before it’s published. Everything you do changes the position words appear on in any page, and you can easily push or pull paragraphs onto the next or previous page by making a correction several pages earlier. That’s why indexing and cross-referencing are among the final tasks a book or other document goes through before it goes to press.

Useful though it is as a collaborative work tool, Google Docs is not a professional typesetting suite like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. It’s just for getting words, images and ideas on the page, and if the material is destined for pro publishing, it will almost certainly go through a pro suite for typesetting and printing.

How to reduce word count (or letter count) in a document

A relatively common task assigned to copywriters and editors is reducing word count or letter count. The motivation is usually:

  • aesthetic (making the copy fit on the page more pleasingly);
  • restriction (where certain counts are mandatory or advisory, for example in tweets or meta descriptions, or perhaps to make sure a booklet is exactly 32 pages long);
  • simplicity (where the original is technical and heavy-going, but needs a simpler rendering for a general audience); or
  • for readability (simply shortening rambling text to make it shorter and quicker to read).

Although the reasons for shortening copy might differ, the end product is consistent: to say the say thing with fewer words. Let’s have a look at how to do it.

Techniques for reducing word or letter counts

So you’ve been instructed to reduce the word count or letter count (I’ll just use word count for now, unless it’s specifically letter count). Copywriters are quite used to doing this, as we do it to our own work all the time. We’ll create a first draft, then self-edit several times until we are happy with what we see. It’s not always to meet word counts, either – it’s just generally good practice to write less. However, to non-copywriters or editors, it can be a challenge. Assuming you’re given some copy to shorten, here’s how you go about it.

Assess the scale of the reduction

First, absorb the size of the reduction you need to make. If it’s reducing 1000 words to 900, this can usually be done with a bit of editing, but reducing by 50% or more can require more structural changes. For now, just bear that in mind as it’s too soon to make changes.

Give the text a full read

Read the whole thing, whether it’s a book, a brochure or a product description. Without knowing what the whole piece is about, you can’t hope to understand the point of the writing and which parts are important. Parts that might seem trivial early on can end up being key to the conclusion. And conversely, that 300-word description of a background fact could be superfluous to the story and a strong candidate for the chop. You need to understand your subject before you can judge which parts can be removed.

Consult the client/author about important parts

Always have a chat with the client about what the aim of the copy is. It isn’t always obvious to an outsider, and you could end up taking the copy in the wrong direction if you remove emphasis from the wrong parts.

Make several sweeps of the text

For average pieces of content in the 300–1500-word range, go through the copy several times, making small changes each time. If you can take 5% off the length each sweep, you can cut it by more than a fifth after four sweeps. You always see opportunities for reduction that you missed on previous sweeps, and re-treading your path helps you make sense of the text.

Use bullets

If you can use bullet lists and numbered lists to replace sentences, and the format is appropriate, do it. Bullet lists mean you don’t have to bother with grammar as the entries are often single words or phrases. Bullet lists also break up the text and make it more visually interesting, and therefore easier to read.

Do note, however, that if you’re reducing text to squeeze more material onto an area of a physical page or PDF, bullet lists can say less per cm² than a block of text can.

Pleonasms, redundant phrases and tautologies

Because the items in this paragraph’s subheading all mean the same thing, you can get rid of every instance of such redundant copy without harming the meaning. That’s because all the items in the subheading mean the same thing.

Is there a shorter way to say something?

Why say “we’re an engineering company based in Salford” when you can say “we’re a Salford-based engineering company”? Be alert to how changing the word order can take away grammatical necessities that use up valuable characters.

Finally, rewrite it

If, after assessing the scale of the task and reading through it, you conclude that it can’t be shortened, it will need to be re-written. Think of a better way to say what’s being said, work out how you can get to the end more efficiently, and create a brand new draft. It’s often quicker to do that anyway, especially with shorter texts. A copywriter or editor will be able to do it, too …

How to reduce word count in a document

The role of typesetting

Good typesetters know plenty of tricks to reduce the physical size of a block of text without making it less readable. They can subtly change letter-spacing, leading, font sizes and kerning to achieve text blocks that are identical to the layperson, but which can save valuable space on the page. If your word reduction is for visual reasons and the required reduction is relatively small, ask yourself if there’s anything typographical you can do with it.


Image: Mark Tegethoff

How to get a pound sign (£) and euro symbol (€) on a US keyboard

Pound euro symbol on US keyboard

Thank you very much, Sainsbury’s UK, for selling me this HP keyboard. I guess I can’t complain about it being US configuration when there’s a massive “US” sticker on the box. And on the whole, it’s the same, except the @ and ” are swapped over. Oh, and there’s no pound sign on it. Even though UK keyboards have a dollar sign on them, the USA doesn’t appear to reciprocate.

So much for the special relationship.

Getting the pound sign on the keyboard

Thankfully, I’ve found a workaround, which works-around in Windows.

Simply hold down Alt and type 0163 on the number pad (not the top line of the keyboard) and the £ miraculously appears.

Getting the euro symbol (€) on a US keyboard

While we’re on the subject, you might want to get the euro symbol from time to time. Now I come to think of it, my old GB keyboard didn’t have a euro symbol on it either. So much for our most important trading partner. Again, this is for Windows: Hold down Alt and type 0128 on the number pad. Bingo.

Now I just need to earn some money so I can put my skills to good use …

Pound euro symbol on US keyboard

Hyphens, en dashes and em dashes: how to use them

They might all look vaguely similar, but hyphens and dashes serve very different purposes. Here’s a quick rundown of their differences and how to use them.

Hyphen ‐

The hyphen is shorter than both dashes (although in some typefaces, it can look identical). It has two purposes in writing and typography: joining words and splitting words.

Joining words

When two words (or a word and a prefix/suffix) are being made into one, they are joined by a hyphen. Hyphens are often used to join two parts of an adjective to prevent ambiguity. Consider:

  • a cold-blooded animal (the blood is cold, not the animal that happens to have blood)
  • a second-hand clothes shop (the clothes are second-hand)
  • a six-year-old girl (the girl is six years old)
  • there were six year-old girls (there were six girls who were 12 months old)

When a hyphenated word comes into popular usage, it usually loses its hyphen. Nobody would describe an aircraft as being super-sonic any more.

Splitting words

In typography, if a word is so long that it would cause unacceptable word spacing if it were to go on the next line, it can be split with a hyphen. In word processors, you can specify that a hyphen is optional. That means that if the whole word fits on a line, it will not be broken, but if it doesn’t you can specify where it will split.

It’s good practice to split words as naturally as possible, so the reader gets an idea of the pronunciation. That usually means splitting at the end of each syllable.  For example:

  • man-slaughter, not mans-laughter
  • co-operate, not coop-erate
  • Mersey-side, not Mers-eyside
  • proof-read-ing, not pro-ofre-ading

Don’t split words with one syllable.

As a copywriter, I don’t really need to worry about this kind of hyphenation because I don’t really know where individual words will appear on the page. It’s a job for typesetters and designers.

Splitting hyphenated words

If a word is naturally hyphenated, it is bad practice to split it anywhere else if it doesn’t fit on the line. If the natural hyphen cannot be used to break to word, consider changing the letter spacing or word spacing.

Hyphens and word counts

A hyphenated word counts as one word. However, most word counts are specified for visual reasons, so don’t worry if you have a lot of hyphenated words and the count seems low. Usually, a single hyphenated word will count as two from a design perspective.

Do Hyphenated Words in Title Case Have Capitals?

Whether hyphenated words in title case* have both component words starting with a capital depends on the style. Technically, a hyphenated word is one word, so only the first letter should be capitalised. However, some styles demand that both, or all, component words, plus prefixes and suffixes, start with a capital.

* “Title case” is the heading style to this section, where each major words starts with a capital, as opposed to “sentence case”, where normal capitalisation is used (like all the other headings here).

En dash –

The en dash has three main purposes: as a bridge between items in a range; as a type of parenthetical symbol; or in place of a colon or semicolon. Its name comes from the fact that it’s the length of a lower-case letter n.

Bridging with an en dash

Where there’s a range of numbers, they can be shown with an unspaced en dash in place of the word “to”. It also works with letters, when they are being used alphabetically. So we can write:

  • The job will be ready in three to four days or The job will be ready in 3–4 days.
  • Complete sections A to E or Complete sections A–E

Note that there is no space before or after the dash. Typographically, however, the dash can be used to break over two lines, like a hyphen.

An en dash can also be used to denote journeys, periods of time or pieces of infrastructure. Again, the dash replaces the word “to”:

  • The Stockton–Darlington railway
  • The Victorian–Edwardian eras

Using bridging en dashes with units of measurement

If you’re using a dash to show a range of units, you only need to use the unit once.

  • 56–62 °C, not 56 °C–62 °C
  • 3–6 o’clock, not 3 o’clock–6 o’clock

If you want to avoid ambiguity by mentioning the unit twice, use the word “to” instead.

Note: a bridging en dash means “to”, not “and”

Avoid using an en dash to replace the word “and”, particularly when following the word “between”.

  • between 6 and 8 years, not between 6–8 years

En dash as a parenthetical symbol

The second use of the en dash is as a parenthetical symbol. Parentheses are the ( and ) symbols, often called brackets. That gives a clue to the use of en dashes in this context – they are used to separate a word, phrase or clause from the sentence that surrounds it. It’s useful for giving additional information or reminding the reader abut some previously mentioned fact. In most cases, the en dash can be swapped with parentheses, em dashes or commas and the sentence will work perfectly well.

Note that these en dashes are spaced; that is, they have a space before and after them.

  • The farmer – who had been watching closely – took aim and fired.
  • The farmer—who had been watching closely—took aim and fired.
  • The farmer (who had been watching closely) took aim and fired.
  • The farmer, who had been watching closely, took aim and fired.

However, if a sentence is long and convoluted, with several nesting parentheticals, it’s good to mix up the types to aid clarity.

  • The farmer – who had been watching closely and concluded (wrongly) that the foxes were after his chickens – took aim and fired.

is preferable to:

  • The farmer, who had been watching closely and concluded, wrongly, that the foxes were after his chickens, took aim and fired.
  • The farmer (who had been watching closely and concluded (wrongly) that the foxes were after his chickens) took aim and fired.

As a rule, the sentence should work equally well with or without the part that’s parenthesised.

  • The farmer took aim and fired.
  • The farmer – who had been watching closely and concluded that the foxes were after his chickens – took aim and fired.

En dash as a colon or semicolon

A spaced en dash can often replace a colon or a semicolon, and can be advisable if there are already (semi)colons in the sentence.

  • There was only one possible solution: jump.
  • There was only one possible solution – jump.

 

  • I like the summer; it reminds me of home.
  • I like the summer – it reminds me of home.

Em dash —

The em dash is the longest of the dashes, supposedly the length of a letter m (hence its name). It can be used parenthetically or to replace missing words or letters.

Em dash as a parenthetical symbol

The em dash has exactly the same parenthetical purpose as the spaced en dash above. Its use is purely a matter of style. Even parenthetically, it can be either spaced or unspaced, but note that unspaced em dashes do take up a lot or room and can look unsightly. The em dash is generally favoured in the US, whereas in the UK the en dash takes precedence; but there are no set rules here.

Em dash to replace missing words or letters

The em dash can be used to show hidden or missing text. That might be:

  1. to carry a plot (where the writer doesn’t want the reader to find something out
  2. where text is unknown or unknowable
  3. where expletives are used.

Examples:

  1. She finally worked out that C— was the murderer
  2. The ancient engraving said “Lorem I— dolor sit amet, c—tur adi—od tempor
  3. “Come back here, you f—g m—r,” she requested.

Photo: Kristaps Grundsteins