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Tag Archives | Microsoft Word

Microsoft 150, freelance writer and editor 0

As I mentioned previously, a couple of weeks ago I was hired to help a client format a report. Microsoft Word had been acting up and the best way to fix the document was copying and pasting the text and slides, one page at a time, into a new file.

Tuns out that process was only part of the solution.

My client was using the Calibri font, which resembled Wingdings on my computer. Assuming this bizarre font was just another glitch in Word, I changed the text to another font and all seemed well.

It turns out that Calibri does depict numbers and letters, but only on newer versions of Word. We tried changing the font on my computer, with its five-year-old copy of Word, from Calibri to another one and then changing it back on my client’s computer, with its Microsoft Office 2008. Unfortunately that approach caused additional formatting glitches.

The solution? Spending $150 on the newest edition of Microsoft Office.

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.

Web roundup: AP style, writer’s resources, word processors, and hyphens

Here’s another review of some writing-related links.

  • The 2007 Associated Press Stylebook: This year the AP released its first update to its stylebook since 2004. With the constant influx of technology terms into our lexicon, the new AP Stylebook is a must for writers and editors. While it’s been a while since I was a newspaper reporter and a lot of my clients don’t use AP style, it is a good reference nevertheless.
  • Internet Resources: Writing links & writers links for writers: This page lists more than 200 online writing-related resources. (I’m all for search engine optimization, but this page’s title, however, is a little ridiculous. I’m sure most of those writing resources would advise against such a title.) (Via Lifehacker)
  • Word Processor Review: A lot of people are hemmed into their choice of word processor—it has to be Microsoft Word. If your fortunate enough not to be one of them, this site lists other options. Unfortunately as all of my clients use Word, I have no choice but to do so as well. Given my druthers, however, I’d give Apple’s Pages (part of it’s iWork suite) a shot.
  • Copy-Editing Corner: A hyphen too many per diem: Mike Billings weighs in on when—and when not—to use a hyphen.

The editing process: 17 steps to a finished paper and happy client

Here’s a 17-step process for editing a document. Obviously, many of the stages can be broken down into more detail. This list, however, is a simple reminder that I keep on my desktop to guide me through each editing job.

  1. Create a folder in the computer for all of this project’s files.
  2. Create a job in QuickBooks under this client if it’s an existing one; create a new client profile and job if the client is a new one.
  3. Create an invoice to track the hours worked.
  4. Turn on Microsoft Word’s track changes in the document (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes > Track changes while editing; some editors also select Highlight changes on screen, but I find it hard to read a document when the changes are visible).
  5. Make sure there is just one space between sentences and not two.
  6. Edit the body of the document (the specifics of this step vary based on the document).
  7. Compare the references section with the in-text citations; look for multiple publications from an author in the same year and edit the citations and reference to differentiate between them.
  8. Edit your queries to the client to make sure he or she will understand them.
  9. Review the acronym list you created while editing and add it to the document.
  10. Run a spell check to catch any words missed while editing.
  11. Update the table of contents and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  12. Update any other tables (such as a table of figures or illustrations) and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  13. Select Highlight changes on the screen (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes) so the client won’t wonder if you forgot to use track changes.
  14. Return the document to the client. Call him or her to make sure he or she received the e-mail—corporate e-mail filters have been known to kill many an e-mail with a large document attached.
  15. Follow up with the client to make sure he or she is happy and has no further questions.
  16. Submit the invoice and add an action in your calendar to follow up on its status once it is past due.
  17. Thank the client once payment is received.

The differences between em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens

One of the most common problems I encounter is the improper use of dashes and hyphens. Here’s a quick reference adapted from a presentation on grammar I gave at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu when I was an editor there on the Commercial Market Strategies (CMS) project:

  • Em dash — (hold ALT and type 0, 1, 5, 1 in Microsoft Word on a PC, also accessible from the Insert > Symbol > font (normal text) menu). Denotes a sudden break in thought or emphasis.
  • En dash — (hold ALT and type 0, 1, 5, 0 in Microsoft Word on a PC, also accessible from the Insert > Symbol > font (normal text) menu). Denotes a range, often replacing the word “to.”
  • Hyphen – (the key next to “0” on most keyboards). Connects compound words. (Yes, I realize there’s no difference between the symbol for the en dash and hyphen in this entry; it’s a quirk in HTML.)

(Because of a glitch in the Safari and Firefox browsers, the sizes of the en dash and hyphen may appear incorrectly on your screen; the em dash is the larger of the two.)

Example: Tax-preparation services will be held March 10–19—what a thrill that will be!

Also, these rules are per The Chicago Manual of Style. For more information, check out its Q&A on hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes or Wikipedia’s entry on dashes.

Freelancing, Word styles, Bill Clinton, and Russia: Articles worth reading

Here are some good reads on an assortment of topics:

  • Freelancing tips from an illustrator. It’s obvious that Megan Jeffrey has 17 years of experience freelancing; there’s not a single suggestion with which I’d disagree (link via Lifehacker).
  • Macworld: Save time with Word’s styles. One of the biggest ways to make publishing a document more efficient is to get everyone in an organization using Word’s styles. It makes an editor’s job easier, as he or she won’t have to waste time reformatting a document and instead can focus on improving the text.
  • The New Yorker: “The Wanderer”—The ex-presidency of Bill Clinton. This article in the September 18, 2006 issue isn’t available online, but it’s worth picking up at the newsstand. David Remnick’s profile of President Clinton is fascinating and examines his work fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • The Economist: Russian health and demography—A sickness of the soul. It’s hard to think of a country that put the first man in space as having problems usually reserved for developing nations in Africa and Asia, but that’s what former superpower Russia is facing.

Should there be one space or two spaces between sentences?

One of the most frequent questions and problems I encounter is the number of spaces in between sentences (I see it wrong more often than I see it right). The answer? One space.

Why the confusion? From About.com:

It is generally accepted that the practice of putting two spaces at the end of a sentence is a carryover from the days of typewriters with monospaced typefaces. Two spaces, it was believed, made it easier to see where one sentence ended and the next began. Most typeset text, both before and after the typewriter, used a single space.

But if you’re editing a document by someone accustomed to the old style, you don’t need to manually delete each extra space if you use Microsoft Word (instructions are based on Microsoft Word X for Mac, but are similar for other versions):

  1. Type Command+F (Ctrl+F for PC versions of Word)
  2. Select Replace
  3. In “Find what” type two blank spaces
  4. In “Replace with” type one blank space
  5. Select Replace All
  6. Repeat step 5 until Word says it made 0 replacements