Thursday, July 19, 2012

MS Word Common Mistakes & Fixes 2

Terry Wright

One of the most misunderstood features in Word (2007 pictured here) is Styles. Microsoft supplies a hodgepodge of selections one can use to quickly modify the look of your paragraphs and headings. On the screen and printed on paper, these ‘nice touches’ are extremely satisfying to the eye and useful to layout editors of newsletters and magazines. But for writers of commercial fiction manuscripts, they can be a nightmare, especially if your publisher plans to convert your document file to an electronic format.

The trick is setting up the “Normal” style and using it consistently throughout your manuscript. I’ve seen contest submissions where paragraphs switch from 12 point font to 10 point and back again, simply because a style other than “Normal” got applied to random paragraphs, probably by accident. I’ve also seen epub files turn into a smorgasbord of fonts, font sizes, bolds, and italics. What a mess.
You can set this feature when you begin typing, or you can select your typed paragraphs (or Select All) to change the formatting. To set the properties for your “Normal” style, right click the normal box. In the drop down window that appears click “Modify.”

Clicking “Modify” opens the Modify Styles window.

#1 Change the font
#2 Open the Format window and
#3 Click paragraph

Change the paragraph properties (Remember last week’s blog?)
Click OK

Then Click OK on the Modify Styles window.
Now all your paragraphs, or the paragraphs you type afterwards will have the “Normal” style. Anytime you want to alter a paragraph, say to center a new chapter heading or scene break, select the text to change and use the tool bar icons to facilitate the change. You’ll see the altered format will still keep the “Normal” box outlined.           

A properly formatted manuscript will impress upon agents and editors that you are a professional writer.


Chiseled in Rock said...

I've been going nuts trying to figure out how to reset the default formatting in Word. Modify "Normal" -- geesh. Thanks, Terry.

Dean K Miller said...

I agree...thanks so much for "splaining" this in commoner's english.

I've wrestled with this on and off, along with a couple other formatting quirks that have stumped me. But I'll pin this one down now!