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Never use Microsoft Word to write blog posts

I tell all of my clients, if you use Microsoft Word to write your web content – all may seem fine, but under the hood your website may be one post from a breakdown. WordPress is no different, any database driven site hates incorrect character translation and one day you might corrupt your website and data to the point of no recovery. Read on for some simple tips to prevent a melt down.

WordPress post writing window – Check for ‘quotes’

Most people know Word, and what is not to know. You open up a document and start typing and save. It’s what people are comfortable with, and I haven’t met too many people that like change.

But what you don’t know is that Microsoft has it’s own special markup language that doesn’t translate to the web. Here is a perfect example. Over the weekend I had some time to write a post or two remotely on the laptop. I just pulled up Word not thinking about it, wrote my post and saved. Later on I copied and pasted right into WordPress. Here is what you will notice;

Bad quotes in a post

See the quote on the left? That isn’t a real quote, but a fake character. WordPress can’t interpret the encoding Word has used and has made an unknown character that suspiciously looks like a real quote mark. The quote on the right is a real quote and HTML understands that character. If we were to zoom into the quotes, they’d look something like this;

Bad quotes in a post

Quotes aren’t the only characters that are problematic. Any characters that need an ampersign to be translated to HTML can cause the same issues. Register marks (®), Copyright signs (©), “ands” (&), ellipses (…) and even blank spaces come up as little image translations of the real character or are bad translations you can even see (spaces).

The killer is that your website may never have a problem. You may cruise along, typing merrily supporting the Remond bohemoth and then one day you lose many years of work. Or, you might have several hundred posts that when corrupted, have incorrect characters throughout that can only be solved by manually checking every last piece of text. I always think of the car commercials where the women is seeing the clear cut messages of breakdown everywhere she looks.

Solution for proper web formatting and encoding

If you have typed up a post in WordPress not all is lost. Usually you can copy all of your text, paste it into Notepad or Wordpad, save the document, and then copy that out and paste into WordPress. Sometimes you don’t even need to save, but by saving you ensure that the software completely strips out any Microsoft specific formatting.

For tech users, you can use a free piece of software called PSPad or even paste into a recent copy of Dreamweaver. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe at version CS2 and above Dreamweaver started to automatically translate characters from content pasted out of Word. (It used to be even Dreamweaver didn’t translate the characters correctly.) In either case again, then paste into your WordPress post window.

The ultimate solution when working remote, is to use an offline blogging software (The best I’ve found, ironically, is Microsoft’s Live Writer) and synchronize posts later, or just get used to writing in a software without formatting and do all your formatting in WordPress. That’s what you are doing anyway, right ;)?

Had any horror stories from mis-encoded characters beyond website validation? Leave a comment and tell us what and let others know how really really bad using Word for content can be.

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Comments
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Really, not sure anyone should use MS Word. I just laid out 300+ pages for a client and the writer / editor use MS Word and they let auto format be their friend. Unfortunately, it’s wasn’t my friend.

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I think that Word has improved from 2003 in version 2007, but it will always have special layout and character properties that never translate to any graphic discipline.

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Did you know that you can use the WordPress Editor offline using Google Gears? You can enable gears under the Tools admin menu. I haven’t tried it yet, but that would give you your familiar wordpress post editor, while offline so you don’t have to worry about misformatting your post.

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I didn’t know that you could use Google Gears to do offline blogging with WordPress. I had enabled Google Gears, I had read it was supposed to speed up loading time of frequently used pages, but I didn’t know it could do this as well. I will have to think to check into this more later…I would assume that you would be able to ‘save drafts’ locally, and then hit publish later when you have an internet connection….is that your understanding?

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Let me know if you try this Jeff, sounds like a better solution to the old cut and paste I do using note pad.

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I will of course. I don't know when the next trip will be…maybe sometime in October, and I'll have to try this then, if I remember. I guess my question still exists, how does it work Brian? Do I then just hit 'publish' when I get back to a connection and this essentially works as the sync?

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