Archive for March, 2014


Word: Change caption numbering from sequential to chapter numbering

March 31, 2014


  • You have a Word document that uses outline numbering for each chapter/section heading (e.g. 1.1, 1.2, 2.4.3 etc.).
  • You have table and figure captions in this document that are numbered in two long sequences — one for tables, one for figures (e.g. Table 1 through 53; Figure 1 through 26).
  • You want to convert the caption number sequences from a single number sequence to a separate sequence in each chapter/section (e.g. Table 3.2 for the second table in chapter 3).
  • You want to do this because your document is long and readers can’t easily find the tables/figures they want as numbers like Table 34 are meaningless unless you find the table captions before/after ‘Table 34’. By changing the numbering sequence to include the chapter numbers, your readers will have guideposts to aid their search — if they are in Section 5, they will know that Table 3.2 is back in Section 3 and is the second table in that section.
  • Ultimately, you want to help your readers find the information they want as quickly as possible.


This set of steps ONLY works if you use automated outline numbering for your heading styles. This post does not describe how to set that up (instead see the links in this post:


There are three main steps in this procedure — updating the table and figure caption numbering, then updating any cross-references that refer to these tables (including any List of Tables of List of Figures you’ve inserted).

Step 1: Update the caption numbering for tables

  1. Place your cursor in front of ANY automated caption number for ANY table.
  2. Go to the References tab and click Insert Caption to open the Caption dialog box.
  3. Change the Label to Table.
  4. Click Numbering to open the Caption Numbering dialog box.
  5. Select the Include Chapter Numbering check box.
  6. Optional: Change the Separator. It’s unlikely you’ll need to change the Format or the Style, so leave those as they are.
  7. Click OK to close the Caption Numbering dialog box. Doing this automatically updates ALL table caption numbers in the document.
  8. Click Close to close the Caption dialog box.

Step 2: Update the caption numbering for figures

  1. Place your cursor in front of ANY automated caption number for ANY figure.
  2. Go to the References tab and click Insert Caption to open the Caption dialog box.
  3. Change the Label to Figure.
  4. Click Numbering to open the Caption Numbering dialog box.
  5. Select the Include Chapter Numbering check box.
  6. Optional: Change the Separator. It’s unlikely you’ll need to change the Format or the Style, so leave those as they are.
  7. Click OK to close the Caption Numbering dialog box. Doing this automatically updates ALL figure caption numbers in the document.
  8. Click Close to close the Caption dialog box.

Step 3: Update all the cross-references to the figures and tables throughout the document

  1. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  2. Right-click and select Update Field.
  3. If you’re asked about updating the Table of Contents, select Update entire table, then click OK.
  4. If you’re asked about updating the Table of Figures, select Update entire table, then click OK. You might be asked about this twice if you have both a list of tables and a list of figures.

When finished, all your cross-references should now reflect the new numbering sequences. NOTE: Sometimes you have to repeat these steps and update a second time to get them to all update correctly.


See also:

[Links last checked March 2014]



March 24, 2014

I think they meant ‘FreeSpirit’ like the rest of the copy… (and yes, ‘fat quarters’ are legitimate things that quilters know well).

Business Marketing 101: Employ a proofreader/editor!



Functional design

March 19, 2014

Some things are just too sensible for words, and you wonder why no-one thought of them before.

Here are some I came across during my recent trip to the US.


A wall hair dryer in a hotel bathroom with an LED nightlight incorporated into the holder — perfect for 3 am trips to the toilet in the dark! The LED light stayed on all the time the hair dryer was plugged in.


I’ve seen this before, but its usefulness was really brought home this trip as I travelled with my tablet, which needs charging fairly regularly. Having a power outlet sensibly located on the base of the bedside light avoided all sorts of hunting and crawling about under the bed (often to no avail) looking for a spare outlet.


At last! Recognition that business travellers actually do work in their rooms, and that kids with multiple devices need places to plug them in, and if necessary, project their games on to the in-room TV screen. This panel next to the desk in my room at the Renaissance in Palm Springs had FOUR power outlets for charging all your devices (and they were oriented in different directions to suit odd plugs), as well as LAN, HDMI, audio ports etc.


More milestones… Four million views!

March 18, 2014

Sometime in the past two weeks while I was in the US attending and speaking at the annual WritersUA conference, the number of views on this blog ticked over past four million!

four_millionCompared to the exponential increase in the early years, the number of views per month seems to be plateauing. I’m fine with that; after all, some 100,000 views per month is nothing to be sneezed at and not too bad for a lone writer/editor living in regional Western Australia. And even though I don’t write posts nearly as often as I did in the first years, I still get some four to five thousand visits on an average business day.

My posts must be helping someone somewhere…

See also:

[Link last checked March 2014]


Word: Jump back to a link

March 17, 2014

If you Ctrl+click on an automated cross-reference to jump to the target location in your Word document, did you know that you can go back to your previous location by pressing Alt+left arrow key?

And if you’ve jumped to several cross-reference locations one after the other, pressing the Alt+left arrow key multiple times will take you back through the cross-references you clicked in reverse order.

BONUS: Pressing Alt+right arrow key straight after you’ve pressed Alt+left arrow will take you back to the previous location!

Super quick and easy, but another of Word’s ‘hidden’ keyboard shortcuts.


[Thanks to Paula R for sharing this with me]

See also:


Avoid ‘due to’ where possible

March 14, 2014

Some terms—such as ‘due to’—are imprecise and can have multiple meanings.

Does ‘due to’ mean:

  • as a result of/resulting from
  • as a consequence of
  • because of
  • caused by
  • owing to
  • attributable to
  • based on
  • since
  • payable to
  • supposed to (as in ‘due to arrive at 10 am’)

or something else?

When you use ‘due to’ you are asking the reader to figure out what the cause/effect relationship is, instead of stating that relationship clearly and precisely. If the reader has to stop and substitute possible meanings for ‘due to’, they may not select the meaning you intended. As the author, it’s your responsibility to be clear as to what you mean, and, in most cases, that means using a more precise term than ‘due to’.

Quick tip

A quick tip is to substitute ‘due to’ with one of the options listed above and see what works best without adding, removing, or rearranging words. Here are some simple examples:

  • My sore back was due to sitting poorly. ⇒ My sore back was caused by sitting poorly. (this substitution works, as might ‘a result of’ and ‘a consequence of’)
  • I missed the bus due to the rain. ⇒ I missed the bus caused by the rain. (this substitution doesn’t work is it implies that the bus was caused by the rain)
  • I missed the bus due to the rain. ⇒ I missed the bus because of the rain. (this works)


See also:

[Links last checked March 2014; based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]


WritersUA 2014: Day 3: Thursday 6 March

March 7, 2014

Writing for global audiences (Barbara Jungwirth)

Only 500 million people speak English as native language; about 850 million speak it as a second language.


  • controlled/simplified English (very restrictive)
  • global English (more flexible).

Using tables/charts may make info easier to interpret/understand.

In general, short sentences/paragraphs are easier to understand.

Be consistent – use same term for the same thing.

Avoid non standard speaking or usage – e.g. lead a meeting, not chair a meeting (‘chair’ has multiple meanings).

Abbreviations and acronyms are awkward for all.

Avoid unclear antecedents, e.g. ‘it’.

Don’t remove ‘that’ as it helps non native English speakers.

Avoid complex tenses, e.g. has been executing vs executed.

Avoid gerunds: e.g. specifying vs that specifies

Consider cultural issues, especially avoid humour, sports, popular culture, religion, politics, any level of profanity. Date/time and measurements.

Watch for different levels of relationships between writer and reader, e.g. ‘you’ might not be appropriate.

Watch for differing interpretations of visual cues (e.g. STOP sign is not the same shape in all countries)

Don’t assume all users can read your document using bandwidth etc. that you experience.

Use standard fonts as you can’t assume that users computer systems are similar to yours.

Techniques for maximising content reuse (Andrew Becraft)

Many different ways for doing reuse.

Biggest misconception: equating single sourcing with reuse. Reuse can flow into single sourcing but that’s not essential.

Planning for reuse: need a strategy, think about info architecture, decide level of reuse required.

How big should you chunk content? Can be too big, or too small. Should not chunk everything as too unmanageable. What if ‘OK’ chunk actually should be ‘Submit’ or ‘Apply’ in some instances?

Lack of context can mean the chunk is used in the wrong setting, or is translated incorrectly.

Focus reuse on smallest contextually meaningful unit.

Good chunks: topics, tables, figures, lists, steps, alert text.

Content snippets need to be able to be found within the authoring tool too. Organise into folders, files/objects, meaningful IDs for the file/object. Meaningful hierarchy.

Don’t rely on file/topic level reuse alone. It’s too big a level.

Don’t chunk content smaller than a paragraph.

Responsive Web design in user assistance (Tony Self)

Every website needs to be redesigned to give a good experience for those reading on small or large devices.

People on mobile devices want the full experience.

Principle is that one website can be viewed on multiple devices and in multiple orientations.

Tony provided and explained an extensive glossary of terms related to responsive Web design.

User Agent: determines what browser version is used, and whether desktop, mobile etc. Stupid to try to develop different websites for different devices as too many and too many new developments

Media Query: CSS idea beefed up in CSS3.

Viewport: size of the viewing window

Adaptive Layout: trying to solve same problem as responsive web design; uses JavaScript. Design for the least capable device

Progressive Enhancement: opposite of graceful degradation (which is design for the most capable device); progressive enhancement has a different starting point i.e. the least-capable device; relates to ‘mobile first’ approach

Mobile first + responsive web design is best combination. Uses these three principles:

  • flexible, grid-based layouts
  • flexible images and media
  • media queries.

Mobile First: design for mobile first then adapt for larger devices. Lack of space forces you to think about what’s critical info.

Breakpoints: point in the layout where the media query kicks in and the layout changes/adapts/responds. Set these based on device capability, not device itself.

Media Types: e.g. screen, TV, etc.

CSS link in HTML: Tony showed example code for this.

Chrome emulation mode: use for testing; found under Tools > Developer Tools, then open ‘drawer’ and go to Emulate tab, choose device.

Fluid images: users figure and figure caption elements in HTML5


I presented a session on ‘Clear, Concise, Consistent: Reducing User Confusion’


Practical HTML5/CSS3 for real writers (Dave Gash)

HTML5 is still in development and not finished, but some features are still useful and available right now.

HTML5 is a bunch of things, not one thing. Lots aren’t applicable to most content writers. Semantic structural elements are the most applicable — e.g. article, aside, nav, header, section etc. Tag names are semantic and make sense. Many can be nested how you want them to be.

Just using the tags doesn’t work – you still have to style the tags. Use CSS3. Some of the CSS3 features may include rounded corners, drop caps, etc.

HTML5 is much simpler to code. Many divs and classes can be replaced with semantic tags.

Trends in mobile user assistance (Joe Welinske)

Things are changing very fast.

Overlays for UA are quite popular in mobile apps.

How much do you need to put in literal representations of hands/devices? May diminish over time, as instructions for using the mouse has diminished/disappeared over time.

Optional tutorials leading to embedded help can be fairly effective. Just cover main issues, top one or two only.

Opportunity for us to bring what we know to the mobile app arena.

Tablets provide enough screen real estate for UA similar to desktop. But tablet apps are part of ecosystem that has grown up from phone apps, not down from desktops.

If designing for a small device, do all your writing in a space that’s no bigger than the device.

Use media queries to sniff out the device being used.


See also: