Posted by: Jack Henry | March 9, 2017

Editor’s Corner: How to Describe Keys, Part 3

Shifty Characters

In my last post, I discussed the 11 special character keys on a standard keyboard. Some readers asked about the other 21 special characters—the ones that share keys with numbers or other characters (like the exclamation point piggybacking on the 1 key).

Good news; it’s actually easier to write about these characters than their non-shifted counterparts. Because these characters always occur in combination with the Shift key, you can usually refer to them using Shift+<symbol> (for example, “Press Shift+!”). You don’t need to worry about the name of the symbol.

Here’s the rule as stated by the Microsoft Manual of Style:

“To show a key combination that includes punctuation that requires use of the Shift key, such as the question mark, add Shift to the combination and give the name or symbol of the shifted key. Using the name of the unshifted key, such as 4 rather than $, could be confusing to users or even wrong.”

Tip: Always spell out the names of the plus and minus signs, hyphen, period, and comma (for example, “Press Shift+Plus Sign”). This is to avoid writing confusing instructions like “Press Shift++” or “Press Ctrl+..”

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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