How to make symbols stand out?

Subject: How to make symbols stand out?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2002 14:44:45 -0500


Karen West is <<... updating a software manual which refers to various
symbols. When these symbols are referred to out of context they are enclosed
in round brackets, for example: The switch character is shown as a forward
slash (/) and then in the index it appears as: forward slash (/)>>

The problem with this approach is that symbols go by many and varied names;
/ could be "forward slash" (for English alphabets), "backward slash" (for
Semitic alphabets), or "divided by" sign, for example. And as you note,
putting them in brackets causes problems when you're trying to define
brackets: braces ({}) round brackets (())

One way to format them in running text is to use quotation marks (e.g., the
"/" symbol), but of course that won't work if you're using quotation marks
as a symbol. An alternative might be to simply insert a double space around
the symbol character, which would make it stand out from the surrounding
words. For that matter, you might be able to write things such as: "use the
/ to separate commands" rather than "use the forward slash "/" to separate
commands". An "explain it then provide an example" approach might also work:
Use the forward slash to separate command parameters. For example: Format C:
/yesIreallymeanit /banzai!

For the index, one effective solution would be to place all symbols at the
beginning of the index or in a separate index of symbols, and if you choose
to use textual index entries such as "forward slash", provide only a
cross-reference to the symbol index (e.g., "see index of symbols on page xx"
or "see list of symbols at the start of this index").

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

"Writing, in a way, is listening to the others' language and reading with
the others' eyes."--Trinh T. Minh-Ha, "Woman native other"


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