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A matter of degree?

As science editors, we read a lot of responses to reviewers—and we’ve seen a lot of odd comments. One comment that first seemed odd, perhaps even a bit out there, was a complaint from the reviewer that the author used the superscript “o” instead of the degree symbol. This comment caught our attention, as one of us (who shall remain unnamed) had always used the super-o in her own writing– was she being sloppy?

Ever since then, just in case, we check for the real degree symbol. But why? We have never seen that comment again, so maybe that reviewer was just a crank? Maybe—but he or she was a crank with a point—that (consciously or not) reviewers notice even little things like the presence of an authentic degree symbol. If you pay attention to detail in your manuscript, that indicates that you likely pay attention to detail in your research too. It’s like coming to an interview perfectly coiffed vs. disheveled—you need to make a good impression.

Just to make sure we weren’t going off the deep end of editorial insanity, we polled our Facebook friends—five of the six respondents said they noticed and preferred the degree symbol. One friend and grad-school colleague Neal (a well-published, well-funded professor) summed it up thus: “I know the keystroke for degree symbol. That says it all.”

On the Mac, the keystroke for ° is Option-Shift-8. For PCs, the keystroke is Alt-0-1-7-6 (on the numerical keypad). In Word, you can use the Insert Symbol tool, if you prefer. Use this symbol to give your manuscripts an added degree of polish (and reassure reviewers that you pay attention, down to the smallest detail)!