Tom Scocca gets so much right in his jeremiad against Microsoft Word that what he got wrong really stung – because what he got wrong is basically what every other writer or journalist gets wrong.

Scocca correctly derides:

  • automatic ordinals

  • automated indention of lists

  • failed ”smart quotes‘

  • tag soup in HTML export

But Scocca is the kind of hack who doesn’t know the phrase “tag soup.” Forgivable because he still correctly diagnoses the problem. But, judging by his replacement workflow, he doesn’t know how to solve the problem. What he did was switch to TextEdit and use MS Word solely for wordcount. Scocca also insists that quotation marks, apostrophes, and dashes need to look like something typed on a Selectric.

Long-time readers will see where I’m going here. This is a writer who, like practically all others, doesn’t know the first thing about Unicode and cannot code a simple HTML document. (For almost any kind of article in the journalistic sense, you need to know H1 through H3, P, A, UL and OL and LI, and IMG. It’s harder to write an article about Microsoft Word than to learn nine HTML elements.)

How do you solve this problem in one fell swoop? You read Borked Unicode and then you start using a real text editor, like BBEdit, which can and will mark up text for you nearly automatically and will always use UTF-8 encoding. And it does wordcounts, among other things.

(In fact, Scocca’s complaints about dumb quotes don’t make sense because Word positively does save as UTF-8 by default. He’s doing something else wrong.)

Scocca didn’t respond to my E-mail. And I expect he will do what hacks tend to do – decide he’s already spoken on the issue and refuse to upgrade his skills. He will have trenchantly described half the problem while refusing to solve the other half.

Special bonus failure

Scocca didn’t pick it and Slate’s CMS is notorious, but this is the actual slug for his article (linebreaks added):


The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2012.04.19 14:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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