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When the formatting in a Microsoft Word document goes bad, start over

If you use Microsoft Word, you’ve encountered a document like the one I just received (along with a desperate plea to fix it):

  • adding a page break caused it to add two blank pages
  • removing a page break deleted not just the break but also the following page
  • the text was in Calibri (a font I can’t even replicate on this website), and while I was able to change it to Garamond, it often reverted back to Calibri

And I’m not even going to mention the quirks with the headers and footers.

I gave myself 15 minutes to fix the problem. As expected, I failed. Miserably.

So I gave up on that file and opened a new blank document.

I copied and pasted the text page by page from the original document into the new one. Going a page at a time allowed me to isolate the problems—and there were problems—and address them one at a time rather than trying to fix dozens of issues at a time.

All told, formatting the 68-page report (including reviewing it to ensure the author’s concerns were addressed and that I didn’t create any new ones) took three hours.

Sure that’s more time than it should have taken to format a simple document (looking at you Microsoft), but a lot less than the eight hours someone else already had spent–unsuccessfully–trying to fix it.

When fighting with a Microsoft Word document, sometimes it’s best to surrender and pick a new battle.

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