Alignment, Text Direction and All That Annoying Stuff

As translators we often times need to write texts (documents, emails, blog posts) that use more than one language.

Most times, this is an easy enough task: simply switch the language on your device.

For those of us that deal with languages that are written from right-to-left however (Hebrew, Arabic, Persian…), it might help to sharpen our understanding of alignment and text-direction.

Quick solution

If you find yourself on the wrong side of a text area, search for the right-to-left mark ‏and press it.

The symbol that typically depicts a right-to-left text direction button. The button will usually look like this or a slight variation of this.

This will bring you to the right-hand side of the editor and place all numbering and punctuation appropriately (periods, question marks, etc. will go on the left).

Lining it up – alignment

In some cases, we wish to write some text in a right-to-left language, but still want it to line up with the rest of our left-to-right text. That is, we wish to add text whose proper direction is from right-to-left but we want it to align with the rest of our document.

For cases like this, we can use the alignment setting.

Typical buttons indicating alignment. From left to right: left align, center, right align, justify.

For example:

This is some text from left to right.

וזה טקסט מימין אל שמאל.

As you can see, the punctuation in our Hebrew text is formatted correctly, while we still managed to push it to the left of the page.

To sum it all up

Text direction will display the text correctly in terms of styling, punctuation and numbering.

Alignment will determine from which side of the page the line will begin.

 

*Note: Direction also determines alignment unless otherwise specified. That is, if only direction is set, then it will automatically adjust alignment accordingly. i.e.

right-to-left text direction dictates right alignment

left-to-right text direction dictates left alignment

Bonus: finding the true end or beginning of a line

Many times when mixing right-to-left and left-to-right text in a single document, we press enter and we don’t get the desired results.

That is, we want to start a new line, but instead, the line that we’re on simply gets pushed down…or vice versa.

A simple fix for this is to use the home and end keys on your keyboard (this is not relevant for mobile devices as these keys are not available).

Home and End keys on a typical keyboard.

Pressing home, regardless of text-direction or alignment, will bring you to the beginning of the line. From here, pressing enter will push down the line you’re currently on.

Pressing end will bring you to the end of the line. From here, pressing enter will start a new line.

 

…Not too bad right?

Try it out next time you’re conversing with a client or translator on 2 Drops.

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