"a ways" comes before "aardvark"

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"a ways" comes before "aardvark"

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Dec 02, 2004 10:37 pm

In Microsoft Word, is there a way to make a space between two words that will fool Bill Gates into thinking there’s a letter there

Bill’s idea of “alphabetical” is grossly different from the rest of the world’s; he gets confused when an entry has more than one word. What ’m trying to do is find a way to make the Sort algorithm work like a dictionary; that is, observe absolute alphabetical order regardless of how many words constituting each entry

The way it does it now,

a ways
aardvark
back to basics
backfill

Therefore if I could somehow make Bill think that there was a letter between a and ways and between back and to, then maybe he would put them in alphabetical order like a dictionary–Thanks guys
Submitted by dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:20 pm

The basic answer to your question is that I don't think it's possible to achieve your sorting objective in Word.

According to Word 2000's help facility, Word uses the following rules:

“If you sort by text: Microsoft Word first sorts items that begin with punctuation marks or symbols (such as !, #, $, %, or &). Items that begin with numbers are sorted next; and items that begin with letters are sorted last. Keep in mind that Word treats dates and numbers as though they were text. For example, "Item 12" is listed before "Item 2."

If you sort by numbers: Word ignores all characters except numbers. The numbers can be in any location in a paragraph.”

Now I have had similar problems with sorting in the past, and I have tried various work-arounds such as temporarily using find-and-replace to substitute a punctuation character for the space between two words. The problem with this is that Word does not simply overlook the punctuation character and treat the item consisting of word-punctuation char.-word as a single unit. It alphabetises the punctuation character as well, which negates the point of the substitution.

I think that especially in your case, a better bet for achieving your end would be to use a database program that allows you to specify your sort criteria more flexibly than Word allows.

That might seem like more work because you would have to create a new database entry for each term, but I think it would ultimately be worth it for your purpose.

The reason is that if you structure it sensibly you will be able to break up each entry into all its components, such as headword, definite/indefinite article in headword (if relevant), date of first usage, country/countries where current, primary definition, secondary definition (etc.), source of data (e.g. name/date of a TV show, rap record, magazine, novel etc. in which a term is believed to have been used for the first time), first example of usage, second example of usage (etc.), offensiveness marker (if relevant/desired), and any other types of data item you might decide to include.

This will both enable you to analyse your data in a way that you could not do otherwise (e.g. you would be able to sort the terms chronologically or by geographic region), and will give you far better control of your final output. I strongly suspect that unless you decided to self-publish, you would be asked by your prospective publisher to undertake this kind of exercise in any case, so you might as well organise your data in this way right from the start.

I suggest you lurk in some lexicographers' newsgroups for a while to find out exactly how the pros do it (they may contain archives that will point you in the right direction regarding data structure and software selection, or a relevant FAQ document); and if you can't find what you're after there, then you can always ask the other members directly. It is also probable that there are trade journals (either printed or online) which will answer your questions.

Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:34 pm

Thanks Erik I shall seriously mull your scheme
Another correspondent has suggested filling the space with an alphabetical character, then coloring it white so it will be invisible. This works but then of course at publication time (2008, it's a long-term project) I'd probably be faced with a new set of problems
I keep nudging my No. 1 Son, who is a full-fledged IT; so some time in the next seven years I expect he will come across
Meantime tho I fear you're right; Bill just doesn't understand about the lexicon, while his programmers can't read and write, much less use a dictionary; and so there's no existing algorithm in Word for proper alphabetizing
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Thu Dec 02, 2004 11:49 pm

I suggest you go to google groups and search for a group on word applications.

(-)posted by the old lady who travels the Western US who cannot figure out how to become a member, perhaps, but not certain, because she cannot get the top half (41% actually) of the page to display.
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:03 am

Ma'am, you appear to be in Kerry country. Could it be that the Kerry voters that were so badly required in the bible belt were hiding in the top 41% of your screen instead of turning up at their polling stations?

If so, you have a lot of explaining to do.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:17 am

I would like to blame Bill Gates and all his programmers for making a program that won't allow me to automatically sort "alphabetically" in "qufko#@hzwn*ltbgdiyraiv$scedijmpx" order. I think I'll go cry now :-(
Reply from Russ Cable (Dallas, TX - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:32 am

Getting back to the thread; Erik, replacing it with an underscore is indeed easy and seems to work, and a simple macro can be devised to save keystrokes; while all the underscores can easily be removed later if needbe, as you pointed out, by a simple sweep of find-and-replace

Lest anyone else wish to try this, however, you'd have to save an intact copy of the file because there's no way to get the underscores back if you needed to do another sort--thanks again Erik--DH

PS: Lurking in newsgroups as you suggest is the ultimate solution of course. But presently I have four highly-paid and -qualified digitinos working on the problem (no, really; literally, I do), and so far they all agree with you that Word cannot sort alphabetically, that is, without shifting the entries all over the place

God bless Bill and his digerati; may they learn to read and write


Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:46 am

There is another way which I used in a modified form for a 900,000-entry bilingual terminology list which I maintain on a private Web site. Although mine is in a database, the theory is the same.
If you're working with tables, it's pretty simple. Just add a column with with a copy of the headword, delete all the spaces from that column and sort by it.
If you're not working with tables, simply precede the headword with a copy of the headword without spaces, hyphens, articles etc. and format it as hidden text. If you have the hidden text visible, it sorts correctly, and if you have the hidden text hidden it sorts the old way. To publish, turn off or delete the hidden text (search and replace).
Reply from Phil White (Munich - Germany)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:01 am

Ingenious!

A 900,000-entry terminology list is quite something. What fields does it cover? (Pardon my curiosity!)
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:15 am

Thanks to Phil
Could anyone hazard a guess as to whether Erik's scheme using punctuation (such as underline) or Phil's hidden-entry scheme would be easier?
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:29 am

Erik,
It sounds more impressive than it is. Primarily IT and telecommunications and very often product-specific, i.e. the precise translation company X uses in product Y for a "voltage dip" in their interface for a train power supply system. There's a vast amount of justifiable redundancy in it (not everybody uses the same translation for "Exit" in the "File" menu of a program). Start including phrases and the confounded German compound nouns and it soon adds up.
When you think that the translation lists for the user interfaces of Microsoft products alone cover about half a million entries (which aren't even in my database - copyright), you begin to realize how easy it is to build such a stock of resources. The list for the Office XP suite alone has about 65000 entries, and Microsoft have 52 other lists. Add to that the discrepancies in terminology between Office 97 and Office XP, which we had to watch out for for a couple of years....
Oh, and ...

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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Dec 03, 2004 1:44 am

Dale,
Erik's original suggestion (a database) would also be my preferred method. It's not difficult to do in Access or some similar DB program. I use more arcane ones because they perform better over the net. The benefit of the hidden text method in Word or a database with a special sort key is that you could sort an entry in an entirely different place from its natural alphabetical position. Hence "play the fool" with a key "foolplaythe" would sort under fool, where it belongs (or under both if you copy the entry with two different keys).
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