Archive for August, 2014


I like this quote

August 31, 2014

Attributed to Henry Ford: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”




Excel table into Word — quick and easy method!

August 25, 2014

I’ve written before about some methods for getting the data in an Excel spreadsheet into Word (see the links below).

Recently, one of my colleagues had a BIG Excel spreadsheet table (all text) that had to be inserted into a Word document. In this instance, inserting a link to the spreadsheet was not an option, and saving it as multiple images and inserting those was problematic too (fuzzy, almost unreadable text mostly). So in despair my colleague asked me for some help.

In the process of testing many options I stumbled on a solution, but then I forgot which of the many combinations of things I tried was the one that worked ;-) So after a bit more testing I got it to work again.

Here’s how:

  1. Save the Excel spreadsheet as either a MHT or HTM file (doesn’t matter which – both work).
  2. Open this saved file in Internet Explorer. Right-click on the saved file, then select Open with > Internet Explorer. NOTE: This method DOES NOT work if you open it in another browser, such as Firefox or Chrome — you must open it in Internet Explorer.
  3. In Internet Explorer, go to File > Edit in Word (or similar), which opens the spreadsheet in Word as a table. (If you can’t see File, press the Alt key to show the menu.)
  4. You may have a little bit of fiddling to do (e.g. remove blank columns, resize columns, change font size), but it shouldn’t be much.
  5. Select the reformatted table, copy it, then paste it into your main Word document (or save it as a new document if you aren’t inserting it into another document).

See also:

[Links last checked August 2014]


Another cute 404 error message

August 22, 2014

This time from the Smithsonian:

Page not found; picture of panda wiping its eye


Plurals don’t take apostrophes — it’s not that hard

August 21, 2014


I was wandering in a Target store the other day and spotted some egregious apostrophe errors in the paid-for-and-no-doubt-very-expensive signage. Here’s one:


They had no apostrophes in ‘Books’ or ‘Paperbacks’ (which is correct as they are plural forms), but somehow had thought it was necessary to add apostrophes to CDs and DVDs, which are also plurals. The error was bad enough, but the inconsistency was just as annoying.

Further along in the store they had ‘Womens’ and ‘Mens’ as well as ‘Women’s Clothing’. ‘Women’s Clothing’ is correct — the clothing belonging to or for the women, but ‘Womens’ and ‘Mens’ is NEVER correct — you can’t pluralize (if that’s a word!) a plural. The plural of ‘woman’ is ‘women’ and of ‘man’ is ‘men’, so you can only ever have ‘Women’s’ and ‘Men’s’ when they are adjectives (or perhaps implied adjectives as in ‘Women’s Clothing’); otherwise it has to be ‘Women’ or ‘Men’. Never ‘Womens’ or ‘Mens’.

Basic rules:

  • Plural form — add an -s or an -ies as appropriate; NO apostrophe
  • Possessive form — add an ‘s (or just an apostrophe in the case of words already ending in s)

Yes, there are some minor exceptions to these basic rules, but for most cases, these rules apply.


Seagate 2TB drive will not do a Windows system image

August 20, 2014

Buyer beware!!

I purchased a Seagate 2TB Expansion external hard disk drive (HDD) on Friday. I tried to do a Windows 7 backup and system image on Sunday, as you do, but it failed with the error message below.


I then spent an hour or so hunting forums etc. to find out that the drive needs to be configured to a 512 byte drive not a 4 KB drive to do system images (Windows 7 backups seem to work OK if you uncheck the system image option). Problem: Even after installing the Microsoft hotfix (see links below), this drive cannot be configured to 512 bytes! (Yes, my friendly PC Guru people helped me with that, but to no avail as it’s a hardware issue.)

So on Monday, I called Seagate Support and they confirmed that this drive is configured as a 4 KB drive, cannot be configured to 512 bytes, and also confirmed that THERE’S NOTHING ON THE PACKAGING or in the box to tell consumers that Windows 7 backup/system image WON’T WORK ON THESE DRIVES but that I could purchase their drives with proprietary backup software installed. I don’t want to do that (I’ve been down that path with Western Digital [WD] drives – not pretty). So this drive is not fit for purpose! Who makes a drive that doesn’t work with the backup/system image utility provided by the world’s biggest operating system? Gee, that’d be Seagate!

I’ve now called the place I bought it from and I can get a full refund on the drive if I bring it back with the packaging and receipt. That’s a 50 km trip for me, so I might consider using it just for data storage and continue doing backups on the WD 1TB drive I’ve been using.

How does Joe Blow Public deal with these issues? He buys an external HDD from a name brand, plugs it in, tries to do the right thing by creating a backup and system image and it fails. And he doesn’t know why or how to find out, and if he finds the 512 bytes versus 4 KB stuff, his eyes glaze over and he realizes he just paid $100 for a door stop!

Some of the sites reporting this issue:

[Links last checked August 2014]


SOEWA Winter Seminar

August 19, 2014

I attended (and spoke at) the Society of Editors (WA) [SOEWA] Winter Seminar on Saturday. It was a day packed with good information and a variety of speakers and topics. Here’s my summary of the sessions (not including mine on the pros and cons of telecommuting).

These are my note and opinions, and do not reflect anyone else’s experience.



Dr Hilary Cadman: PerfectIt and other editing tools

Hilary had two sessions at this seminar.

The first was on PerfectIt (, which I use. This was a hands-on demo, and considering the time she had and the number of people in the room (about 27) and the varying levels of comfort with PerfectIt (from those who’ve never heard of it to those who are users of the software), she did well in covering as much as she did. Even though I’m a PerfectIt user, I still learnt something in this session, like how to add customizations to a style as you go (I’d been doing it the manual way). She also mentioned the free style sheets available from PerfectIt such as those that covert UK to US spelling and vice versa, and the Australian Government style sheet.

Her other session later in the day covered other editing tools that can automate some of the repetitive processes we do.


  • embrace technology
  • start somewhere
  • get connected

Advantages of tools:

  • save time
  • save sanity
  •  improve quality
  •  decrease RSI
  • look more professional — improved image, better client confidence in you
  • add value to client (e.g. offering client a PerfectIt style sheet for their future docs); can go beyond the client’s expectations


  • over reliance on tools
  • can mess things up (e.g. beware of replace all, fix all)
  • cost of the tools and time learning program
  • employer resistance to installing unknown applications on their systems
  • potential overlap with functions in tools

Hilary’s ‘can’t live without it’ recommendations — PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, and PhraseExpress (

Editor’s Toolkit ( — looks overwhelming, not user friendly, but once installed and start using saves lots of time; has about 48 shortcuts, but don’t need to use them all. Many are very useful. ~$70 (Jack Lyon’s program)

EndNote ( — for managing citations/references.

EdiFix ( — online search tool for citations/references that you can use to find references that can then go into Endnote.

John Denton: Business systems

Essential to have systems for your business:

  • Process: flow of work — start, do, end; Flow charts can map about the business flow (e.g. how to respond to an enquiry)
  • System: how the process is recorded, executed, and communicated to be consistent every time

Process: what needs to be done; System: how it needs to be done

Where do you start?

  • what are the areas of greatest frustration in my business?
  • how do these frustrations impact my business?
  • what results am I NOT getting due to these areas?
  • how is that impacting me personally, emotionally, financially, health, time etc.?

Systemization gives you time to document etc. the system! Need to make time to ‘sharpen the saw’ (Steven Covey)

  • ‘The real problem is that my business lacks a system to….’
  • What will be the benefits to the business of implementing a system?
  • What will be the benefits to me personally?

Map out business aspects/processes (production [do the work], admin [e.g. invoicing], people, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing)

Need for:

  • Contact Management System
  • Document Management System

Can change Windows folder icons to help identify where files are (, and/or use a consistent numbered system for folder names (e.g 01Admin)

Benefits of having systems:

  • prevent or minimize errors
  • reduce need for and cost of rework
  • easier to train/employ staff
  • can use temporary staff/outsource when you have a system
  • frees up owner to work on the business — or have time off! (e.g. holidays)
  • things get done consistently and in a timely manner
  • business is not ‘owner-centric’

Challenges of systems: Business personalities:

  • The analyzer — loves detail, analysis, problem solving (left-brain dominant)
  • The safekeeper — works to a structure, systems, checklists, plans (left-brain dominant)
  • The carer — people person, counseling, making sure people are OK (right-brain dominant)
  • The player — entrepreneur, doesn’t organize anything, risk taker (right-brain dominant)

In a perfect business, need all those elements. most have all traits in some degree or another, but some personalities will dominate. Various personalities will drive each other crazy!!

What do Boeing and David Lee Roth have in common? Van Halen were first band to take 18+ trucks of gear on the road, so had to use systems to make sure everything worked. Roth developed a process for setting up everything so that it was done right and wasn’t a hazard. His contract stipulated removing the brown M&Ms from the artists’ room as a test to see if the system had been followed. Boeing – created checklists for aircraft back in the 1930s(?)

Don’t need to produce manuals to document processes — can produce videos, use diagrams and pictures, flow charts, swimlane diagrams, checklists

Improve system:

  • continuous improvement — act, plan, check, do
  • put a QA process in to see that keeping on track

Procrastination and perfectionism are your worst enemies in putting systems in place!

John uses Trello (http://www.trello/com) for collaborating on projects and Fiverr ( for outsourcing some tasks.

Margaret McNally: How many P’s exist in ‘publication’?

Margaret was managing editor for a university (print) publications team and described the complex workflow in getting documents from concept to publication.

‘P’ aspects of publication:

  • pen
  • paper
  • process
  • production
  • patience
  • persistence
  • PANIC!
  • print
  • pleasure.

Implications of digital for print publications that are competing with online environment:

  • length of stories
  • design and imagery.

Managing Editor – person in charge of managing all aspects of the editorial process of publications including staff, budget,and production schedules (copy editing, design, imagery, print, compliance [Competition and Consumer Act 2010], budget, staff)

Adobe InCopy — Lets copywriters and editors style text, track changes, and make simple layout modifications to a document while designers can be working simultaneously on the same document using InDesign — all without overwriting each others’ contributions. (from ~$AU382, part of Adobe Creative Suite 6 (Creative Cloud)


  • know your company/organization
  • familiarize yourself with latest trends — publication,  print, online
  • develop ideas.

Georgina Wilson: Editing for the web — same, same but different

Case study of shifting the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) from print to web publications/communications.

Website wasn’t a resource priority for a long time – frustrating to use, poor navigation, lack of current material, thousands of pages getting no views, no incentive to upload new material.

Had to start from scratch — back end and front end.

BUT developers were employed before they did any user analysis!!

Chose DRUPAL as their content management system. Long process in agreeing on architecture.

Needed to comply with accessibility guidelines, large team of authors and approvers, training in writing for a new system (huge number of writers and reviewers funneling into 10 content approvers).

Arguments about where content belongs — e..g whether bees were ‘pests and diseases’ or ‘livestock’!! (they decided on livestock as bees are not a pest).

New website has 8 main headings (was 13). As 90% of visitors came in via websites, was the navigation that important?


  • more visual, with good images
  • responsive design for different platforms
  • tag relevant topics for search
  • content review date of one year (default)
  • links to other articles on site
  • links to other relevant sites
  • contact details for further info.

Process was slower than expected to get website up… few extra resources were allocated outside the web development team.

Old website was 13,000 pages (mostly PDFs), but so far only about 2000 on new site, so still a long way to go, though some content may not get migrated as out of date.

Two approval stages:

  • author to project approver
  • directorate approver/publisher

Editing for the web:

  • need to follow the style guide
  • look for missing tags, links, quality of images
  • think scanning rather than reading; think of the reader NOT the writer
  • plain English
  • try to grab and hold attention
  • multiple screens examples (we all have multiple screens on at the same time — e.g. TV, laptop, tablet, phone)
  • must be accessible — add alt text to images

Audit trail and process:

  • usually draft text in Word where track changes are easy
  • theory is that author will consult with others but doesn’t always happens
  • some external editors have been employed
  • still waiting for pages that don’t need edits
  • audit trail of every change remains available

Writing basics:

  • reverse pyramid approach– big picture first, then drilling down
  • plain English
  • short titles (6 to 8 words)
  • one deck if possible [she didn’t explain what this meant]
  • keyword in title are the first and last words
  • short paragraphs (40-70 words, though may still be too long)
  • short sentences (15-20 words)
  • replace semicolons with separate sentences, or bullet points
  • lots of headings, bullet points
  • links to other useful sites
  • 10-second rule (lose reader if they don’t find answer in 10 secs)
  • no underlining except web and email addresses
  • no italics except scientific names


August 18, 2014

I was at an all-day seminar at Edith Cowan University (Mt Lawley Campus) in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday. This notice was behind every door in the ladies’ toilets close to our seminar room. I wonder what event(s) prompted someone to make this sign…. Ewww!



Scary error message

August 13, 2014

Westpac, one of Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks, has been rolling out a new online banking design across Australia for a few months. It was Western Australia’s turn recently. I’ve successfully used the new interface to make a couple of payments, but today I came to a screeching halt as my payment wouldn’t go through. I tried twice and got this message:


I followed their advice and called. After being on hold for about 10 minutes, I explained the situation to the customer service rep, and she asked if I’d received the SMS verification code. I hadn’t, AND I hadn’t been asked to enter it either — I just got this error message.

While she was on the line, I tried a third time and this time I was asked for the SMS verification code, which I received within seconds on my phone. After entering the code, it all worked.

So, why this blog post? Because the error message I got from the bank could well frighten some customers, particularly those who are being dragged kicking and screaming into online banking whether they want it or not.


  • Large, almost red ‘Access unavailable’ heading that tells you very little.
  • An indecipherable message: ‘Sufficient entitlements or verification is required…’ — What are ‘entitlements’ in this context, sufficient or otherwise? And what is ‘verification’? Yes, after I spoke to the customer service person, I learned that it was likely related to the SMS verification code, but that’s NOT what the message says.
  • URL that contains words like ‘error’, ‘forbidden’, and ‘entitlement denied’. Nothing like scaring your customers!

In their favor, they at least gave a phone number to call, but it’s a generic phone number for the entire bank, not a specific number for online banking or online banking using the new system — I had to press a few buttons and talk into the void to get that far, and then I was on hold for nearly 10 minutes before someone could answer my query. In the meantime, my banking session timed out after 5 minutes of inactivity on the site and I had to re-enter my password.

Overall, I don’t mind the new interface (see note below), and timing out and requiring you to re-enter your password after 5 minutes is a good idea too. But they really need to work on their error messages so that they don’t scare their customers if something goes wrong. Perhaps a list of possible reasons for this error message would help.

NOTE: One final thing: Although the new interface is clean and easy to use, it DOESN’T use responsive design!! While they tout that it’s for all devices — phones, tablets, desktops, etc. — the design for desktops isn’t responsive.  (I haven’t tried it on my phone or tablet, so can’t report how responsive the design is on those devices.) On my desktop PC, I have my monitors swivelled into ‘portrait’ mode to make it easier for me to work on long documents, but the bank’s design for desktop is a fixed width in the browser viewport, and I have to scroll horizontally unless I make the viewport much wider and spread it across two monitors. VERY BAD design. And yes, I’ve lodged a complaint about it.


Word: Assigning automated cross-references

August 8, 2014

Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues. Warning: LONG! as there are different instructions for each type of cross-reference.


In many of the Word documents you write, you may need to refer the reader to another section, an appendix, a table, or a figure, or numbered reference in a References list. You do this with a cross-reference (e.g. ‘see Table 5-2’). Although you can just type the cross-reference (x-ref), if you add more sections/tables/figures etc. or delete some, then some or all of your typed x-refs will be incorrect and take the reader to the wrong place.

The solution is to use automated x-refs.

That way, when you add/move/delete sections/tables/figures etc., you just need to update the fields in your document to automatically update the x-ref numbers to reflect the new numbering of these elements. The other advantage of automated x-refs is that they are clickable in the Word document (Ctrl+click) and sometimes in PDFs (depending on the Acrobat settings) – in both cases, clicking the link will take you straight to the place referred to.

Assumptions: All the instructions below assume you are working in a document that is based on a template that uses:

The instructions vary a little for each type of cross-reference—figure/table, section, appendix, numbered References list item. However, for each you will start with the References tab > Captions group > Cross-reference button:



Insert an automated cross-reference to a figure or table

  1. Place your cursor in the text where you want to insert the cross-reference.
  2. Go to the References tab > Captions group, then click Cross-reference.
  3. In the Reference type field, click the drop-down arrow and select either Figure or Table (they’re at the bottom of the list).
  4. In the Insert reference to field, click the drop-down arrow and select Only label and number.
  5. Select the figure or table from the list in the lower half of the dialog box.
  6. Click Insert.


Insert an automated cross-reference to a section

  1. Place your cursor in the text where you want to insert the cross-reference.
  2. Type the word ‘Section’ and a space.
  3. Go to the References tab > Captions group, then click Cross-reference.
  4. In the Reference type field, click the drop-down arrow and select Heading.
  5. In the Insert reference to field, click the drop-down arrow and select Heading number (no context).
  6. Select the section from the list in the lower half of the dialog box. Hint: If it’s a long list, type the main section number – e.g. type 8 to take you straight to headings starting with ‘8’.
  7. Click Insert.



Insert an automated cross-reference to an appendix

  1. Place your cursor in the text where you want to insert the cross-reference.
  2. Go to the References tab > Captions group, then click Cross-reference.
  3. In the Reference type field, click the drop-down arrow and select Numbered item (first in the list).
  4. In the Insert reference to field, click the drop-down arrow and select Paragraph number (no context).
  5. Select the appendix from the list in the lower half of the dialog box. Hint: Appendices are always listed at the END of the list, so you might have to scroll down a long way.
  6. Click Insert.



Insert an automated cross-reference to an auto-numbered Reference list item in a citation

  1. Go to the References section, note its section number (e.g. 9.0), then identify the row number in the References list for the document you want to cite (e.g. row number 23).
  2. Place your cursor in the text where you want to insert the cross-reference.
  3. Type ‘(Ref. )’; make sure you add a non-breaking space (Ctrl+Shift+spacebar) after the full stop, then put your cursor after the space and before the closing parenthesis.
  4. Go to the References tab > Captions group, then click Cross-reference.
  5. In the Reference type field, click the drop-down arrow and select Numbered item (first in the list).
  6. In the Insert reference to field, click the drop-down arrow and select Paragraph number (no context).
  7. Go to the References section (e.g. 9.0)  in the lower half of the dialog box.
  8. Scroll down the list of numbers after the section number/heading and select the number of the row you identified in Step 1.
  9. Click Insert.


What happens to the x-ref numbers if I’ve added new tables/figures/sections etc.? How do I update them?

When you add a new section, table/figure, appendix etc. Word automatically applies the correct sequential number for where you’ve placed it. If you move an existing section or appendix, these heading numbers will change automatically too. But tables and figures and all the x-refs DON’T change their numbers until you update all the fields in your document.

Although there are several ways to update all the fields (and therefore the automated numbers), the quickest, simplest, and most foolproof way is to switch to Print Preview mode, then switch back—almost all your numbers automatically update:

  1. IMPORTANT: Make sure Track Changes is turned OFF. Weird things happen if track changes is on, including possibly losing your x-refs!
  2. Go to File > Print. The print preview of your document shows on the right.
  3. Go back to the Home All your fields are updated automatically.

That’s it!

However, this method doesn’t update your table of contents, list of tables, list of figures, etc.—you have to do those separately using the applicable Update Table buttons on the References tab, or use the method below.

To update EVERYTHING in your document at once:

  1. IMPORTANT: Make sure Track Changes is turned OFF.
  2. Select the entire document (Ctrl+A).
  3. Right-click on the selection and select Update Field.
  4. When asked about updating the table of contents etc. select Update entire table and click OK. You may have to answer this several times for each contents list.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 once more to be sure you got everything. Sometimes, the first update will update the numbers for moved figures/tables etc. but not the x-refs too—to be certain you update the x-refs, repeat these steps a second time.



What does ‘Error! Reference not found.’ mean?

You’ll get ‘Error! Reference not found.’ for any x-refs that have nothing to point (refer) to. The most common reason for these error messages is that you’ve deleted a section heading (or a figure/table caption) without realizing that there was a x-ref to it somewhere else in the document. Behind the scenes, Word has unique ID numbers for each x-ref that refers to specific sections, tables, etc. So if you delete the section heading/caption but not the x-ref, Word loses the connection between the two when the fields are updated, and so reports ‘Error! Reference not found.’. The only simple solutions are to:

  • delete the message if the table etc. has been deleted, OR
  • replace the message by creating a new x-ref to the correct place.

What about Section 0?

If you notice some ‘Section 0’ x-refs after you update the fields, there’s a good chance you inserted a new paragraph by pressing Enter at the beginning of an existing section heading and then changed the style of the new paragraph. This screws up the internal IDs. Best practice is to insert a new paragraph at the END of the previous paragraph by pressing Enter. For detailed information on this problem and various methods of solving it, see:


See also:

[Links last checked August 2014]


Member of the Commonwealth? Not according to the BBC

August 4, 2014

Australia is a member of the Commonwealth, but you wouldn’t know it from the BBC website.

During the 2014 Commonwealth Games, a colleague in the UK posted a link to a BBC web page to view a video from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Unfortunately, geoblocking meant that Australians couldn’t view this video.

So much for being a member of the Commonwealth…

I HATE geoblocking!