Archive for the ‘Word’ Category

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Lessons learned from a corporate report

November 30, 2019

I recently did a few editing passes on a 640+ page environmental report that was to be submitted to a federal regulatory authority. I wasn’t able to fully edit the report, but I was able to tame the formatting issues in Word (including making sure all tables had a similar look), check for inconsistencies in common terms and phrases, fix the cross-references to other sections/figures/tables/appendices, check the abbreviations/acronyms list reflected the abbreviations used in the document, ensure nonbreaking spaces were used between values and units of measure, etc. There was no corporate template or style guide to use (the company is very young), though someone had put a very basic template together—cover page, headers/footers and the like—but hadn’t set up styles, therefore the formatting of bullets, numbers, body text etc. was all over the place. Multiple authors had worked on this report, and each had done something a little different with their formatting, and varied in the terms they used and whether they capitalised or hyphenated them or not.

After I returned the document to my contact, she asked if there were some ‘lessons learned’ that she could share with her boss and others involved in the document. Here’s a summary of the email I wrote to her:

  1. Template: Get a corporate report template in place, with as many necessary styles in it and sample tables set up ready to be copy/pasted and modified. Learn how to use it and WHY you should use it.
  2. Style guide/sheet: In the absence of a full style guide, set up a corporate style sheet that lists the preferred ways of spelling/using terms (e.g. the correct spellings/hyphenations for place names, words that can trip you up – e.g. wellhead/well-head/well head, tophole/top-hole/top hole). Make your authors use it, and that you forward it to whoever edits your docs so that they can follow the decisions already made.
  3. Styles:
    • Discourage writers from using the buttons on the Word toolbar for bullets and numbers (there be dragons!) – use the relevant List Bullet and List Number styles
    • Learn how to apply styles to new text, and how to paste text from another doc and format it correctly (NEVER copy across section breaks, for example – more dragons lie there!)
    • Learn how to apply table formatting/styles – for example, in the [company] doc there’s a special button on the Table Tools > Design tab for applying the green table, but I wonder how many know how to use it and instead spend ages setting up the borders, shading etc. manually.
  4. Clickable cross-references (x-refs):
    • In the absence of a program like EndNote, learn how to do x-ref numbered citations so you don’t end up with [CorporateAuthor] 2019a, 2019b, 2019c etc. This sort of citation is a nightmare to update
    • Learn how to assign x-refs (clickable links are recommended for anything that’s going to be PDF’d and read on screen).
  5. References: Make sure authors are CONSISTENT in doing references, specifically when to apply italics, what punctuation to use, how to indicate when a URL was valid etc. (a style guide would help here). I didn’t check any for accuracy, but verifying references online is a BIG job to do after the fact—far easier for the author to grab ALL the citation details when they are writing the doc.
  6. Terms: Make sure authors are pedantic about adding initialisms/acronyms/abbrevs, units of measure etc. to the relevant terms lists—it’s easier to check if something is there or not than to create the list from scratch after writing the doc. I use software macros that can pull out some of this, but not all.
  7. Unlearn/break bad habits that work for university but not for business/corporate writing. Think like a business person with limited time and NOT like a uni researcher! The habit of writing to a word or page count has been ingrained since about Year 5 and reinforced all the way through to doctorates and, later, journal and other publications. Business reports need to be succinct, use plain language, and get to the point in as few words as possible, without losing meaning. Some examples of bad habits:
  8. Learn new habits: e.g. keyboard shortcuts for things like nonbreaking spaces (Ctrl+Shift+<spacebar>), turn on/off track changes (Ctrl+Shift+e), add a comment (Ctrl+Shift+m), change case (Shift+F3).

I also mentioned and linked to presentations I’ve given to government departments, editors groups, and conferences on plain language writing and on working more efficiently with Microsoft Word (http://cybertext.com.au/presentations.html).

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Word: Find text with angled brackets and replace the text with a character style

November 2, 2019

Here’s one I heard of today, and how I solved it. The person has a Word document with various words and phrases surrounded by double angled brackets, as in <<this is my phrase>>. They want to apply a character style to any text surrounded by angle brackets, and delete those brackets.

I always like a challenge like this, so here’s my solution:

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find what field, type: (\<\<)(*)(\>\>)
  5. In the Replace with field, type: \2
  6. Click Format, then select Style.
  7. Choose the character style you want to apply (character styles are indicated with a lowercase ‘a’ to their left), then click OK.
  8. The character style’s name should be listed directly underneath the Find what box—make sure that this is the case.
  9. Click Find Next, then click Replace if you are satisfied that the correct phrasal structure has been selected.
  10. Assuming that replace worked as you wanted it to, and you are confident the result looks as you expect, click Replace All. (If in doubt, keep clicking Find Next, then Replace.)

How this works:

  • The Find is broken up into three elements, each surrounded by parentheses:
    • The first element contains the opening two angled brackets.
    • The second contains an asterisk wildcard character for any character and any number of characters.
    • The third contains the closing two angled brackets.
  • In the first and third elements of the Find, the angled brackets are each preceded by a \ because an angle bracket is a special character in wildcard searches and therefore must be ‘escaped’ so that Word treats it as a normal character. The ‘escape’ character is the \
  • In the Replace, \2 tells Word to replace the second element (the text and all characters between the angled brackets) with itself (i.e. make no changes), and to apply the character style you chose to that replaced text.
  • By omitting \1 and \3 in the Replace (representing the first and third elements of the Find), Word will effectively delete the opening and closing angled brackets.
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Word: Find and highlight words of two or more capitals

October 31, 2019

I previously wrote about using wildcards in Word to find abbreviations, acronyms, and initialisms that used two or more capital letters, but that post didn’t address how to highlight these so that you can identify them easily when compiling a list of abbreviations. This one does.

  1. Make sure you have a highlight colour selected (Home tab, Font group) that isn’t used for anything else.
  2. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace window.
  3. Click More to show further options.
  4. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  5. In the Find what field, type: (<[A-Z]{2,}>)
  6. In the Replace with field, type:  \1
  7. With your cursor still in the Replace with field, click Format (bottom of the window) then Highlight. The word ‘Highlight’ should display immediately below the Replace with field.
  8. Click Find next to find the first string of two or more capitals.
  9. If this is an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism, click Replace. The term remains the same but should now be highlighted in the colour you chose in Step 1.
  10. Repeats Steps 8 and 9 to jump to and/or highlight the next string of two or more caps.
  11. Optional but not recommended: If you are confident that the only strings of capital letters in your document are acronyms etc., then click Replace All. Note: Every string of capitals will be highlighted, even those that are repeats of ones you highlighted earlier and those that aren’t acronyms etc. (e.g. document numbers, fully capped words).

How this works:

  • The opening and closing parentheses contain the Find command and allow you to reference it in the Replace.
  • The opening and closing arrow brackets (< and >) specify that you want a single whole word, not parts of a word. Without these, you would find each set of caps (e.g. in the string ABCDEF, you would find ABCDEF, then BCDEF, then CDEF, then DEF, then EF, before moving on to the next set of caps).
  • [A-Z] specifies that you want a range (the [ ] part) of caps that fall somewhere in the alphabet (A-Z). If you only wanted capped words that started with, say, H through to M, then you’d change the range to [H-M] and all other capped words starting with other letters would be ignored.
  • {2,} means you want to find capped words with at least two letters in the specified range (i.e. A-Z). If you only wanted to find two- and three-letter capped words, then you’d change this to {2,3}, and all capped word of four or more letters would be ignored. By not specifying a number after the comma, the ‘find’ will find capped words of any length containing at least two letters.
  • The \1 in the Replace and ‘Highlight’ below that field tells Word to replace what was found with itself, and to highlight it with the selected highlight colour.

Note: This technique does NOT find initialisms separated by periods or any other punctuation; it will find UNICEF but not U.N.I.C.E.F.

 

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F12 to save as

September 24, 2019

I hate the way Microsoft Office has been removing (or more likely, hiding) functions that power users have used for many years. It smacks of ‘dumbing down’, to me.

Office 365 programs allow you to ‘save as’ but to get the full set of ‘save as’ options (such as the settings under the Tools drop-down arrow) you have to click the More options link under the file path where they want you to save the document.

There’s a quicker way if you have a keyboard with all the function keys—press F12 to open the Save As dialog box. Done.

(By the way, F12 to ‘save as’ works with many other programs too.)

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Word 365: Finding your own templates

August 10, 2019

Since Word 2013 (Word for Windows), Microsoft has hidden your own templates fairly well, seemingly trying to force you into using theirs. However, every organization I’ve ever worked for uses its own templates, not the Microsoft ones, so when users in those organizations want to create a new document, they need to choose from the organization’s templates.

You used to be able to click File > New and then My Templates, but that disappeared from Word 2013 onwards.

And even if you’ve put your templates into the Templates location on your computer (C:\Users\<your_username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates), you still can’t find them when you click File > New. There are a few things you can do to get them back. First, you have to tell Word twice to look in that location. Then you have to know how to find your templates when you click New, and I’ll show you two ways to do this.

Tell Word where your templates are (you do this in two places—Save and Trust Center settings)

  1. Open Word 365.
  2. Go to File > Options > Save.
  3. Go to the Default personal templates location, and enter the file path where your templates are stored. NOTE: For some reason, there’s no Browse button, so if you’re using the default location (as above in the intro), just copy that, changing the <your_username> bit to your own name. Alternatively, if the AutoRecover file location field in the same window has the default location of C:\Users\<your_username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Word\, just copy that and paste it into personal templates location field, changing ‘Word’ in that file path to ‘Templates’.
  4. Go to File > Options > Trust Center.
  5. Click Trust Center Settings.
  6. Go to Trusted Locations.
  7. Click on the row that has Word default locations: User templates as the Description.
  8. Check the path—it should be the same as you entered in Step 3. If it’s empty, click Modify, then click Browse and navigate to and select the folder where your templates are stored (by default: C:\Users\<your_username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates).
  9. Click OK as many times as necessary to close the Options windows.

Now that you’ve told Word where to find your templates, you need to know how to get to them easily when you click File >New. There are two ways to do this—the Word 365 way, and the ‘old’ way via a Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) button.

Method 1: Start a new document based on your template (Word 365 way)

  1. Open Word 365.
  2. Go to File > New.
  3. Click Personal.
  4. Click the template you want to use.

Method 2: Add a button to the QAT

  1. Open Word 365.
  2. Go to File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar.
  3. Change the selection at the top of the left column to Commands not in the ribbon,
  4. In the panel below that selection option, scroll down to New Document or Template and select it.
  5. Click Add to move it to the right panel and thus onto your QAT.
  6. Optional: Use the up/down arrows to move it where you’d like it to go on the QAT.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Test that it works by clicking this new button on the QAT—the old-style dialog box for choosing a template should open.

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Word 365: Save and send as PDF setting

August 10, 2019

Microsoft sure hid this one! In Word 2010, you used to be able to click File > Save As and then chose Save and send as a PDF (or similar—I can’t remember the correct wording).

In Word 365, you can still do that task, but it will take you a few more steps, and you need to choose the correct PDF option for it to work as it did in Word 2010:

  1. Open the Word document you want to attach as a PDF to an email.
  2. Go to File > Share > Email > Send as PDF.
  3. A new email will open, with the PDF document already attached and ready for you to add one or more recipients, a subject line, and your message.
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Word: Wildcard find and replace to put parentheses around numbers

June 20, 2019

In another post (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/word-wildcard-find-and-replace-for-numbers-inside-parentheses/), Thomas asked: “I have to find any number within a document and put it into brackets: 2 -> (2); 12 -> (12); 123 -> (123)”. But he wasn’t having any luck.

A standard Find can use ^# to find any single number (but not multiple numbers), but that command doesn’t work in a wildcard find and replace.

Here’s what I came up with instead; it assumes the numbers are surrounded by a space on both sides—it won’t find any numbers that include punctuation marks (e.g. 1,000,000), that start or finish with a punctuation mark (e.g. comma, period, parenthesis, semicolon, etc.), or those that are in a word (e.g. Model1345):

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialog.
  2. Click More, then select the Use wildcards check box.
  3. In Find What, type: ( )(<[0-9]{1,}>)( ) (NOTE: there is a single space between the first set of parentheses and between the third set)
  4. In Replace With, type: \1(\2)\3
  5. Click Find Next, then click Replace once the first is found. Once you’re happy that it works, repeat until you’ve replaced them all.

What the find and replace ‘codes’ mean:

The three elements (each is enclosed in parentheses) of the Find are:

  1. ( ) — For the first and third elements, you type a set of parentheses, with a space inside the parens.
  2. (<[0-9]{1,}>) — The < and > represent the beginning and end of the ‘word’ respectively (in this case, the ‘word’ is a set of numbers with NO punctuation, e.g. 1, 12, 1234, 7896543); [0-9] represents any number from 0 to 9; {1,} says to look for one or more of the same (i.e. numbers) to any length immediately after that number, thus not limiting the find to only single digit numbers.

For the Replace:

  • \1 — Replaces the first element (the space) with itself
  • ( — Inserts an opening parens
  • \2 — Replaces the second element of the Find with what was in the Find (i.e. a number).
  • ) — Inserts a closing parens
  • \3 — Replace the third element (the space) with itself