Sunday, August 10, 2008

Word (processing) nerd

On to electronic word processing hints and tips. My thesis clients know this one. There is never a need to put more than one contiguous space in a Microsoft Word document. Any questions? Leave them in the comments; I will reply.

A couple of other word processing tips. You are the master of your fate on the following:

  • Precisely setting the vertical space after a paragraph. There are other options besides two carriage returns. (Handy when trying to fit a transmittal letter on one page.)

  • You can change the character, size and display of bulleted text. You don't need to accept the blobby round default. I like to use a small square in a one typeface size smaller than the rest of the text. For fun, you can use a character from the symbol set, webdings, wingdings, or even choose a picture.

  • You can also control the alignment of the wrapped lines of text. Don't insert a hard return and tab each line. Use a hanging indent.

  • Set tabs precisely where you want them. Clear the extraneous intervening tabs. If you want text to appear at 4 inches from the margin, set a tab at 4 inches, and clear the others. Don't merely tab-tab-tab until finally arriving exhausted and disheveled in the proximity of the desired point.

  • Likewise, set precise page breaks; do not insert hard returns ad nauseum until the software forces a soft page break. If you end up deleting or inserting something above, your page breaks can shift.

  • If you are aligning text with tabs, such the in the educational preparation in a curriculum vitae (CV), a clean way to keep, say, degree, university, and major neatly together is to create a table, adjust the column widths to your purposes, enter the data, then make the table invisible by hiding grid lines. You might also have to set borders to none (Format->Borders and shading->none.) Adjust the padding, if desired, using Table->Properties->Cell->Options. I almost always use zero.

  • Among others, there are decimal and right align tabs. Decimal tabs align the decimal point in a column of numbers. (Never use a left tab, then attempt to align decimal points with multiple spaces.)
    If you want to right align numbers, such as the page numbers in a table of contents, use right tabs, and, as always, clear extraneous tabs.

  • In technical papers, I keep the figures and their captions together by creating an invisible (see above) 1X2 (1-column, 2-row) table, and place the figure in the top cell, the caption in the bottom cell, setting cell margins to preference (Table->Properties->Cell->Options).


Kim said...

Yup agree with all of these - for the last one, you can also use the Keep with previous/next feature.

Waitress from Mensa said...

Kim, I've not tried the Keep with previous/next for anything other than keeping a heading with its associated paragraph, but I'll try this next time. I use the table when the table/figure combo is treated as a graphic element, with text flowing around it. Good suggestion.