Untimely Automatic Line Break in PowerPoint

I recently changed the theme for this blog and all of a sudden, some of the  carefully laid out blog entry titles went haywire. Some of the class participants were prompt to point this out – as it contradicted what I say in the presentation class: DO NOT LET POWERPOINT BREAK THE WORDS IN A CHAIN OF WORDS THAT SHOULD REMAIN ON THE SAME LINE. In the following example, it makes little sense to let Microsoft automatically place p53 and GADD45 on two separate lines. At first reading, the reader thinks each line makes a separate point.  p35 and GADD45 belong on the same line.

A mammalian cell cycle checkpoint pathway utilizing p53

and GADD45 is defective in ataxia-telangiectasia

How is one to avoid such incongruous line breaks?

You have many choices: the easy and the hard choices.

EASY: 1) Insert a carriage return at the appropriate place to avoid bad line breaks.  2) Reduce or increase the font size until the bad line break disappears. If it does not, you may have to also insert a return. 3) Increase or decrease the size of the text box by dragging its handles until the troublesome line break disappears.

HARD: 1) Insert a hard space between the words that should remain on the same line as “cell cycle checkpoint pathway” in the example title. On my Mac, the hard break character in Microsoft PowerPoint is Option+Shift+Space. 2) Rewrite your title and avoid placing more than two modifiers in front of a noun by adding a preposition to separate the long modified chain into shorter segments. 3) For those who can’t be bothered to figure out how to create the hard space (also known as the non-breaking space), they can write any character and give it the color of the background.

a mammalian cell cycle checkpoint

pathway utilizing p53 and GADD45

is defective in ataxia-telangiectasia

Adjectives like mammalian are not usually a problem, they can be separated from the noun they qualify at little readability cost. However, there is no such thing as a mammalian cycle, or a mammalian checkpoint; Mammalian belongs to cell. Long nominal chains like “cell cycle checkpoint pathway” or “checkpoint pathway” cannot be separated. While on this topic, note that for the uninitiated, a long modified noun is not easy to decode. Does “checkpoint” belong to cell cycle or to pathway? An expert would know, but not every reader is as expert as the writer. A preposition would clarify: “Checkpoint pathway of the cell cycle”, or “Pathway of the cell cycle checkpoint”, whichever represents the correct meaning. “Of” may not even be the right preposition!

Author: Jean-Luc Lebrun

This century: Writer on Scientific writing skills and scientific presentation skills, MC for scientific events, Podcaster, Radio Consultant, Trainer for Research Institutes in Engineering and Life Sciences, Singapore, and in European doctoral schools, as well as in South East Asia Universities. Last Century: Apple Computer, Advanced Technology Group, Technology Information manager. Then Director of the Apple-ISS Research Centre - a joint venture between Apple Computer and the National University of Singapore. Producer of TV program on IT for Singapore Channel 5.