Posted by: Jack Henry | February 23, 2017

Editor’s Corner: How to Describe Keys, Part 2

Special Character Keys

Excluding the number keys, there are 11 special character keys on a standard keyboard:

· the Grave Accent key (`)

· the Hyphen key () or the Minus Sign key ()

· the Equals Sign key (=)

· the Open Bracket key ([)

<![if !supportLists]>· the Close Bracket key (])

· the Backslash key ()

· the Semicolon key (;)

· the Quotation Mark key ()

· the Comma key (,)

· the Period key (.)

· the Forward Slash key (/)

The IBM Style Guide gives us the following rule for writing about special character keys:

“If a key has a symbol printed on it, at first reference, use the descriptive name of the key followed by the symbol in parentheses. For later references, you can use only the symbol if no ambiguity or confusion would result.”

Example: To move to the next page, press the Backslash key (). Press again.

However, the Microsoft® Manual of Style lists five special character names that should always be spelled out:

“Because special characters could be confused with an action (such as +) or be difficult to see, always spell out the following special character names: Plus Sign, Minus Sign, Hyphen, Period, and Comma.”

Next Time

When I started writing about keyboards, I thought that two posts would be enough to describe all 104 keys. Boy, was I wrong!

In my next post, I’ll explain how to combine modifier keys with special character keys. Then I’ll finish with a discussion of function keys, cursor keys, and command keys. Stay tuned.

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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