Using the correct symbols: the degree sign and the multiplication sign
With modern word processors, we no longer have to make do with the same key for lowercase ‘l’ and numeral ‘1’ (as those who have used old portable typewriters may recall). Just as the equipment and instruments used in research - from micropipettes and digital weighing scales to scanning electron microscopes and high-performance liquid chromatographs - continue to become increasingly sophisticated, so do the tools used for reporting the results of research: 35 mm slides, for instance, have practically disappeared; we have PowerPoint slides instead.
It is, therefore, important for researchers to learn to use the facilities available to them, no matter how insignificant. This post focuses on two characters.
Use the degree sign (°) and not a superscript o or O: Although the difference is not obvious, as you can see for yourself (compare 30 °C, 30 oC, and 30 OC), you should realize that in some fonts, the difference will be marked. It is also possible that the formatting you applied will be lost when the word-processor files you submit to a journal are imported into a page layout software. To insert the degree sign, press the NumLock key so that NumLock is on; press and hold down the Alt key (in Windows); enter the four-digit code (0176) from the numerical keypad; and release the Alt key. You will find that the correct symbol has been inserted into the document.
Use the multiplication sign (×) and not a lowercase x or capital X: Again, the difference is slight here because the font used (Verdana) is without serifs: see how the appearance changes when you use Times New Roman instead. The four-digit code is 0215.
Read this short and handy article to understand how capitalization works in bulleted lists.
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