Posted by: Jack Henry | February 9, 2017

Editor’s Corner: How to Describe Keys, Part 1

Letter Keys

There are (fittingly) 26 letter keys on a standard keyboard. When you are telling someone to press a letter key, describe the key using an uppercase letter in bold type (for example, “Press Y”).

Number Keys

There are 10 number keys on a standard keyboard (and 10 more on the numeric keypad). It is not usually necessary to distinguish between the keyboard and the numeric keypad. When you are telling someone to press a number key, describe the key using a numeral in bold type (for example, “Press 1”).

Tip: You do not need to say the and key in phrases like “Press the Y key” or “Press the 1 key,” but you may do so if it helps with clarity (for example, if you’re switching back and forth between keyboard and mouse input).

Modifier Keys

The modifier keys (Alt, Ctrl, and Shift) modify other keys. For example, the Shift key switches the letter keys from lowercase to uppercase. Pressing a modifier key by itself usually has no effect.

Capitalize only the first letter of the modifier keys, and abbreviate as shown:

· Alt, not ALT or Alternate

· Ctrl, not CTRL or Control

· Shift, not SHIFT

Tip: This probably matches how these keys are labeled on your keyboard.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Modifier keys are commonly used in keyboard shortcuts. For example, holding down Ctrl while pressing C copies data to the Clipboard.

When you are telling someone to use a keyboard shortcut, combine the key names with a plus sign (for example, “Press Ctrl+C”). Do not put a space before or after the plus sign.

Do not combine keyboard and mouse actions as if they were keyboard shortcuts. For example, say, “Hold down Shift and click the cell.” Do not say, “Shift+click the cell.”

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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  1. […] are 15 other keys we have not discussed, but they follow the same general rules that apply to modifier keys. Capitalize the first letter of each word, and abbreviate as […]

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