Saturday, January 16, 2016

Useful Scrivener Tips

Perhaps some of you are as backwards as I; if so the following about how to use Scrivener may help answer one or two questions which, depending on your level of OCD, may or may not have caused you distress. So, the 'useful' in the title refers to me, and hopefully, to you.

The Word Joiner

 Have you had a sentence in either your e-book or paperback (the pdf for which you created with Scrivener) that, by the nature of the margins and font size and all those other variables, ends split across two lines, so:
“How’s Ian? And Kev? And Amy got back okay? And ev

This may show up when dialog is interrupted. (If you have a problem with the open/close quote mark following the em dash, read on.) In case you wondered, I’ve forced the line break where it normally wouldn’t occur, to create the example.

In like manner, the structure without quote marks is typically used for internal monologue that’s cut off, similar to dialog being interrupted, so:
Probably wasn’t even thinking of that possibility, that she would⁠

The character ending both these examples is the em dash. In Scrivener, the em dash is created by either of two techniques: clicking the ‘hyphen’ key twice (the easy way), or entering (on a Mac, at least), shift option hyphen

To prevent a line break from occurring between the em dash and the word preceding it, someone created the Word Joiner. Using the Word Joiner will force the lines above to appear as you’d hope and expect:
“How’s Ian? And Kev? And Amy got back okay? And
Probably wasn’t even thinking of that possibility, that she

no matter how the page size and margins work out. Note, there is no space between the final letter and the —; the font appears to have a narrow space.

The Word Joiner is entered by placing the cursor between the final character (either the "v" or the "d") and the “em dash.” On the Edit Menu, slide down to Insert, and select Word Joiner. Note that, because it is zero-width, you will observe no change in the text, however, the character count in the status bar will increase. Also, if the change is made where the word and em dash have been split, the word will flow to the next line, coupled with the em dash.

As you may have observed, this addition forces the em dash and the word preceding it to both fall on the next line, so it may affect the way the page lays out. This is more of a concern with the pdf file, since the text on a paperback page doesn’t flow the way an ebook does.

To be clear, I use Find and Replace when I'm finished to add the Word Joiner before all the em dashes, since I can't predict in an e-book where the line breaks will appear.

The open quote where a close quote should be

According to Scrivener support (who are uncommonly helpful and unfailingly polite), the —“ seen when a close quote is entered following an em dash, is a bug in the MacOS text handler. They recommend entering the quote mark following the text, then back-spacing and entering the two hyphens to create the em dash. This works. However, if you’re at all like me, you miss one or two (or even more) of these.

There are three plausible ways to deal with these. First is the one suggested: uniformly enter the quote, then backspace and enter the em dash. Second, finish the word, enter the em dash, and then type the following keys to create a close quote: shift option [
Third, and excellent for one of your final steps in proofing your ms, use Find and Replace to search for instances of —“ and replace them with the correct version.

The Non-breaking Space

A last tip: you may have noticed on the Edit>Insert menu, the Non-breaking Space. This character creates a space which prevents a line break preceding or following it, so that numbers, for example, appear like this:

£30 000 instead of £30
000, which might occur due to line length, page size and font choice. Again, I forced the line break as an example.

There are other situations where you might desire to not have a pair of words split; the Non-breaking Space will allow you that control.

In closing

Google em dash to find suggested usages. In fiction, I find it most useful to signal an interruption in speech or thought, followed by using it to signal a parenthetical expression.

A word of warning, the characters generated with the option key only work (in my case, at least) with the US keyboard enabled. Specifically, when I select the Unicode keyboard, they do not work. Also, while Unicode includes the non-breaking hyphen (U+2011) (Prevent line breaks before or after), and an em dash (U+2014) (Line break opportunity before AND after), it has no Non-breaking em dash, as we would like. Feel free to experiment with these at your leisure. You may find characters like ￯ ([which may also show as a question mark within a square] created, in this case, by typing option ffef [No break zero-width space] using the Unicode keyboard - this appears to be an alternate coding for the Word Joiner [U+2060]).  This isn’t intended to be a treatise on Unicode; just an explanation of the character you might see when entering a code that the character set doesn’t include.

As always, YMMV. I'm using Scrivener 2.7 on a MacBook Pro, MacOS 10.11.2. I'm certain the encodings for these characters (and thousands of others) are available under Windows and for Word users; since I'm not one of those, I recommend a brief Google search, which should fill your screen with more information than you could ever hope for.

Comments, as always are welcome. If you have a similar tip, I'd be happy to see it in the comments.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Noelle! I appreciate it.
      Another tip vis a vis Word Joiners: On my Mac, I have created (in System Preferences>Keyboard>Shortcuts>App Shortcuts) by clicking the + and selecting Scrivener as the app, then entering Control-Option-Hyphen as the shortcut for Word Joiner. Convenient for typing it. It does depend on that key combination not having been selected for another shortcut, so YMMV.
      Best wishes!

  2. Thanks again, Tony! Brilliant!