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Office challenge: Why does Word convert some fractions and not others?

Review the many responses to last week's Excel challenge and test your skills at this week's new challenge in Word.

A user entering fractions calls you. Sometimes Word converts the fraction and sometimes Word doesn't. The user, as you might imagine, wants all fractions to be of similar style. How would you help this user?

Last week we asked…

Why is SUM() returning different results for the same values? There were a number of responses—this is a good page to bookmark for future reference. Spadurar was the first to respond and mentioned using the wrong operator between the cell references. For most of us, that means entering a comma instead of the colon character, which isn't likely. However, if your regional setting uses a semi-colon, as Spadurar suggests, you might see this happen regularly. It's a possibility I hadn't considered.

Most of the responses involve rounding or formatting that masks an underlying value, which are definitely something to look for when trying to resolve this kind of discrepancy. The first to mention what I think might be the most common cause was Massonjj. Excel doesn't mathematically evaluate numbers entered as text. Ppg pointed out that by disabling the error message and right aligning the text value, you further complicate the problem by removing all visual clues to what's wrong. You probably wouldn't do this, but one of your users might. You might be surprised how often I run into this sort of thing; this was the problem that prompted this challenge.

The actual incident that inspired this challenge aside, I am impressed with the level of experience and knowledge you shared. I knew that the text value wasn't the only possibility, but you guys mentioned a few things I hadn't even considered! Thank you for a truly great challenge!

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

7 comments
rae.drysdale
rae.drysdale

Use the Equation Editor to create fractions.

ppg
ppg

Using the keybords shortcuts and enter as superscripts/subscripts (thanks Susan for showing how to get a list of keyboeard shortcuts). {Ctrl,Shift =} type numerator {Ctrl,Shift =} this clears superscript / {Ctrl =} type denominator {Ctrl =} this clears subscript This will look slightly different than the automatically generated 1/2. If you want to use this with all fractions you will have to disable autocorrection for fractions

plumley
plumley

Auto-correct is on and it uses the single character from the chosen font. Fonts that contain single character fractions have 1/4 and 1/2 usually, some esoteric math fonts have the 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 3/4 etc. But these only replace the typed value when auto-correct is on.

dogknees
dogknees

IT only does halves and quarters. The primary reason being there are no special characters for other fractions in the standard ASCII set. How long until the last traces of ASCII disappear do you think? 10 years? 100 years?!!

SirWizard
SirWizard

Consider the Calibri font, which is hardly esoteric in the current Microsoft world. It's the default for Word 2007. It contains as single-character vulgar fractions all of one half, the thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths, and eighths: 1/2 1/3 and 2/3 1/4 and 3/4 1/5, 2/5, 3/5, 4/5 1/6 and 5/6 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8 The missing fractions from the above: 2/4, 2/6, 3/6, 4/6 are all reducible (for example 2/6 = 1/3), so are not needed except for very specialized math use. An energetic user can set all of those in AutoCorrect and be ready for most common uses. For manually creating fractions that have one as the numerator, there is even a nice "1/" character, Unicode 215F Hex (8543 Dec). It sets well with a denominator half its size in bold. For example, to set 1/500 in 12 point Calibri, use the 1/ character set in 12 pt followed by 500 set in 6 pt bold.

no1kilo
no1kilo

ASCII will never go away because it's used in so many functions of business life and there is no alternative to call upon (realistically) that I don't see it disappearing, ever.

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