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How Well Do You Know Your DTP Special Characters?

written by: Amy Carson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 10/18/2011

Special characters like the em dash or the ellipsis are the hallmark of a professional designer. Whether you're just doing desktop publishing for the fun of it or whether you'd like to make it your trade, test your knowledge of these critical symbols with our punctuation quiz.

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    In desktop publishing and graphic design, we use more than the characters easily found on the keyboard or old typewriters. Sometimes you're tasked to do mathematical notation like fractions or equations. Sometimes you need to typeset temperatures, latitude and longitude, or measurements in inches. And beyond all the technical mumbo-jumbo, there are even important legal considerations. Use of the proper symbols is essential to protect your clients' trademarks and to announce copyright.

    Don't just wing these characters by slapping together symbols that look "close enough!" Each one has a special key combination. On Macs, typing these unique characters is particularly easy thanks to many of them being built into special keyboard shortcuts. In Windows, these characters can be created with simple "alt codes," which is done by holding down the ALT key while typing a sequence of three or four numbers. There are also Unicode and HTML expressions for many special characters, meaning you can use them in web design as well.

    You might notice a lack of keyboard shortcuts provided for the special characters in this quiz. Never fear; I've linked to excellent printable and online shortcut references, which you'll see once you finish the quiz. The characters covered here are the ones I've run into most often as a designer, so I expect them to be the most helpful ones to know. Have fun, and see you at the end!

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    Special Characters Quiz


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