Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Two Keys with the Press of One.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 12, 2020)
Sara asked if there was a way to modify the Word keyboard so that whenever she struck the "/" key, Word would actually insert the slash followed by a no-width optional break.
Yes, there is a way to do this, using the AutoCorrect feature in Word. Follow these general steps:
Figure 1. The Special Characters tab of the Symbol dialog box.
Figure 2. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.
Figure 3. The AutoCorrect tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.
That's it. Now, whenever you type a slash, Word will replace it with the desired sequence. However, that being said, you may want to reconsider whether you actually want to make the change to Word.
The lowly keyboard slash key serves several semantically different functions. In typesetting, there are different glyphs for different purposes, and these are accessible through Insert | Symbol. The fraction slash (vinculum) is different from the slash seen in "and/or" (virgule) and is different from the shilling mark (now obsolete, except for historical references to English currency).
The default glyph you get when you press the slash key on the keyboard is the virgule. This is used a few different ways:
In all three of these uses, if it is really necessary to break the line in the middle of the expression, the concept of adding a no-width optional break after the slash works just fine. But there is one other place where slashes are used in today's writing, and that is in URLs. The preferred place to break a long URL is before the slash, not after. This serves the important function of signaling to the reader that the word beginning the next line is still part of the URL.
So, if you were to create the AutoCorrect entry to replace a slash with a slash followed by a no-width optional space, you wouldn't get the preferred method of breaking the URL across lines. In addition, the URL would no longer be "clickable."
If you decide that the drawbacks to creating the AutoCorrect entry for the slash outweigh the benefits, then you may want to reconsider. A good trade-off may be to create the shortcut key for the no-width optional space, and then simply use the shortcut key to type the character wherever you decide that you need it—either before or after the slash, as appropriate.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10417) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Two Keys with the Press of One.
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