Brackets around features

Bruce Hayes
Department of Linguistics

Put pretty feature matrices into your word-processed documents.

Microsoft Word

You can insert pretty feature matrices into your Word documents by inserting this file into them:


Instructions for use:

1. Click on the Brackets.docx link above (you might need to use  right-clicking, with "Save Link As").  This is a tiny Word document.  Save this document somewhere on your computer where you know where it will be.
2. In the document in which you would like to place a feature matrix, go to the Insert menu and find the little icon that looks like this:

Stupid unlabeled icon in Windows

Click the little triangle and select "Text from file".
3. Find your Brackets.docx file where you put it earlier and click the Insert button.  You will see a formula that looks like this:

Features matrix with x and y

4. Highlight this formula with the mouse and hit Shift F9. (In Word for Macs: hold down CONTROL and click on the formula, then click Toggle Field Codes on the contextual menu.)  The formula will now look like:

    { EQ \b\bc\[(\a\al(x,y)) }

5. Replace x with the first feature you want, and y with the second feature.  Don't delete the comma, and don't put in any blank spaces.  By using more commas, you can add additional features if you like, for example:

    { EQ \b\bc\[(\a\al(+syllabic,+round,+low)) }

6. Now put the cursor on what you just did (anywhere inside the {}) and hit F9 again.  Voila:

Feature matrix with +syllabic, +round, +low

7. The process above is pretty cumbersome, but you can speed it up  by making a macro to insert Brackets.docx, assigning the macro to a keyboard shortcut. To do this, search the web on "how to make a word macro". 

8. If you're curious about how this works: { EQ \b\bc\[(\a\al(x,y)) } is a Microsoft Word equation field.  Reading from left to right, it means:  { = begin field, EQ = equation field, \b = brackets, \bc = brackets on both sides, \[ = use square brackets,  ( = beginning of bracketed material, \a = list, \al = left justified, (x,y) = list consisting of x followed by y, ) = end of bracketed material, } = end of field. You can learn more by typing equation field into the Word help search window.

Open Office

An Open Office user sent me an email containing advice on how to do these brackets in Open Office, a free and downloadable alternative to the Microsoft product.  I haven't checked this myself but am passing it on.   pdf document.

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Last updated January 7, 2021.