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Non-breaking Space Checker

Category: Quality AssuranceBack to Quality Assurance section

Non-breaking Space Checker is designed to automate insertion of non-breaking spaces in a number of common situations, such as in the middle of phrases so that they stay on the same line, or before/after numbers. This is done to avoid confusion caused when some block of text wraps to a new line.

The tool assists the user in locating and automatically correcting or highlighting the following:

  1. Phrases that should fully stay on the same line, e.g. “The New York Times”;
  2. Words/phrases that should stay on the same line as the preceding number, e.g. units of measurements like “m3”, “km”, etc. Example: “5 m”, “25 t”;
  3. Words/phrases that should stay on the same line as the following number, e.g. phrases like “Table”, “Figure”, etc. Example: “Table 1”, “AD 200”, “ISO 9000”;
  4. Regular spaces used as thousand separators (digit grouping symbol) in numbers. This works only if you select a language which uses a non-breaking space as the thousand separator;
  5. Regular spaces or no space after opening guillemets and before closing guillemets in French and its variants;
  6. Regular spaces or no space before two-part punctuation (:;?!) in French and its variants.

Non-breaking Space Checker can highlight problematic areas where non-breaking spaces should be inserted, or correct such problems automatically. You can freely customize the lists of phrases/words to be used for searching the document.

Using the command

When you run Non-breaking Space Checker, you are presented with the following dialogue:

Screenshot: Non-breaking Space Checker dialogue before searching

To configure the way the tool works, select [QA Options] tab.
Here, you can change the following:

  1. Current language of the document (if you leave <Any language>, you will not be able to use the additional options at the bottom);
  2. Phrases that require non-breaking spaces in the middle;
  3. Words/phrases (usually units of measurements) to be kept on the same line as the preceding number;
  4. Words/phrases to be kept on the same line as the following number;
  5. Option to insert non-breaking spaces inside guillemets («»<>) in French and its variants (to enable this option, select French language or a French variant from the language list);
  6. Option to insert a non-breaking space before two-part punctuation (?!:;) in French and its variants (to enable this option, select French language or a French variant from the language list);
  7. Option to replace regular spaces with non-breaking spaces in numbers if regular spaces are used as thousand separators (to enable this option, select an appropriate language from the language list).

By default, TransTools configuration files include some common English words/phrases in each of the three lists, and the additional options are enabled.

Screenshot: Configuring QA phrases

When you press [Add] button next to one of the 3 lists, you are presented with the following dialogue, which can also be launched from the Quality Assurance menu:

Screenshot: Add QA Phrase dialogue

You can enter any number of phrases, pressing the Enter key after each one. A word/phrase can include asterisks (*) for indicating the variable portion of the word, as in “Table*” or “Figure*”.
asterisks may appear in several places, but not at the beginning of a word. You should not use punctuation symbols after an asterisk (as in “m*/hr” or “m*/h”) – just enter all possible variants like “m3/h*”, “m2/h*”, “m/h*”, “m³/h*”, “m²/h*”, etc.

In the List field, choose one of the three lists where the phrase should be added (see above). Finally, select the Target Language for the phrases. The language you choose may be used for filtering QA phrases before checking documents, by selecting the language from the Language list under the QA Options tab.

Additional options may be used only if the right language is selected from the language list at the top of the dialogue. For example, to replace regular spaces with non-breaking spaces in numbers (used as a digit grouping symbol), select a language which supports this. If your language may have alternative thousand separators and choosing it from the language list leaves the option disabled, click [Configure] button to the right of the option checkbox and tick your language in the list.

Whenever you add, edit or delete phrases in one of the 3 lists or change additional options, they are automatically saved in “TransTools_QA_NBSP.cfg” file located in “TransTools” folder under your Documents directory (unless a different directory is chosen during installation).

Once you have finished configuring the tool, select [Search] tab and press Check Document button. If the active document contains any problems, you will see the following:

Screenshot: Non-breaking Space Checker dialogue displaying found problems

You can select any found phrase to have it selected in the document. For better navigation, use Up/Down keys to navigate each occurrence and Space key to select or deselect phrases that you want to correct or highlight. Below the list, you will see descriptions of the context and the identified issues, such as “Regular spaces instead of non-breaking spaces” or “No space before number or number symbol”.

If necessary, you can switch to the main document window to zoom in/out or perform other operations, and then switch to Non-breaking Space Checker again.

When you have selected each issue that you want to correct or highlight, select “Correct all selected items” or “Highlight all selected items”, and choose the appropriate Highlight Color (or “Do not highlight” for “Correct all selected items” option). Finally, press Correct Selected Items or Highlight Selected Items (depending on the options you have chosen) to correct or highlight all found occurrences.

If you need to remove highlighting of a particular color, you can use Remove Highlight command found on TransTools ribbon or under TransTools menu.

Implementation details

Below are some implementation details that you should know:

  • All phrases/words are treated as case-insensitive, i.e. checking for “Table” will also find “table 7” and “TABLE 7”, etc.;
  • For words/phrases that require non-breaking spaces between them and numbers, the tool will insert a non-breaking space if there is no space before or after the number, as in “2m3” or “Table#1”. According to common style guides, a non-breaking space is required in such cases;
  • For words/phrases preceding numbers, the tool also handles “number” symbols # and №. Therefore, it will replace a regular space with a non-breaking space in the following text: “Table #1”;
  • As noted above, when you add or modify phrases, you should not use the asterisk symbol (*) at the beginning of a word (as in “*table”) or before punctuation symbols (as in “m*/hr”);
  • Sometimes, you may see three exclamation marks (!!!) in the found phrases list. This means that, while a phrase was found, the tool cannot locate it in the paragraph due to one of the limitations covered below. In this case, you can locate it manually.

Current limitations

In TransTools for Word 1.9.1, Non-breaking Space Checker has several known limitations that will be resolved in the future versions:

  • The tool checks the main body of the document excluding footnotes/endnotes, headers/footers, comments, and textboxes;
  • If a paragraph contains tracked changes, the tool may fail to highlight or correct phrases located in such paragraph (especially in Word 2003 or earlier). If you have problems, it is recommended to accept all changes and turn off Track Changes mode before using the command.


The original idea for this tool came from SafeTex, with some idea contributions from Marco Cevoli and Roger Chadel.

Developed by Stanislav Okhvat, 2007–2016

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