Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Formatting the darn thing - some MS Word powertips...

Some of you  may know that in a previous life I trained people on the use various computer programs. Well, today I had a request from a friend to post about formatting, and although it isn't my sort of thing anymore, I'm being good and putting some stuff out there that may be useful to someone. If not, don't worry, I'll be back blogging about love soon, if you're dying to know more, just comment, and I'll see what I can do...
So, here it is:
Some Microsoft Word powertips for manuscript formatting. Lesson One…

Okay, you’re starting your manuscript, and you want to make sure that it looks the part. The very first thing you need to do is define how your page looks, so with a blank document open, go to page setup and set your margins to 1” all round. Now, before you press the okay button, press that default button. Now every time you start a new document it will have the margins you want!

Next, you need to set a header. Choose Header and Footer from the view menu, Type in your surname/name of book then hit the tab key twice to advance to the right margin, and press the insert page number icon (hover over the little page with # in it, it tells you what it is in a tooltip). Click in the document body to put the header away.

Put on invisible characters from the toolbar by pressing this icon in the toolbar. Now you can see every time you hit the return/enter key, tab key or space.

Choose centre from the toolbar to centre text. Add 8 returns/enters, then type Chapter 1, then add one more enter. Align this last one to the left using the toolbar icon.

Select this last return character and choose double line spacing from this icon on the toolbar,

 the line spacing option. Choose from the drop down arrow on the right.

The first line of each paragraph needs to be indented. So set a first line indent by going to the ruler, and clicking and dragging the top triangle to the ½” mark.

Now you can work away and type your document.
For breaks between scenes, centre and type 5 *’s.

Tip time: Select and copy the eight return characters, chapter 1 and the return after it, and the first letter of the first paragraph. Then choose office clipboard. The office clipboard is a great way to keep a number of items while you’re working that you can apply later in your document by just selecting them from the list. Saves time!

Add in your 5 *’s. Now you can apply them from office clipboard too, quickly and easily.

Practise some selection shortcuts when you have a bit of text. Here are some good ones.

Double click a word to select it.
Treble click to select a paragraph.
Move cursor to the left until it becomes an arrow and click to select a line, drag down to select line by line.
Point at text from left, hold the Ctrl key down and click to select everything.
Or select all from edit menu, selects everything.
Ctrl click to select a sentence.
Select a sentence, hold down Ctrl key, and select a non-contiguous bit of text (useful for italics or formatting)
And my favourite, click at the beginning of a piece of text, hold down shift key, and click at the end. This selects from point to point.

When you’ve finished typing for the day, you can add a tag then search for it using find from the edit menu. Just type it (eg xxx) then you can type xxx into the find box to return you to that position. Using find and its associated box replace, to quickly change all occurrences of a word through your book. Be careful of this one though, finding his and changing it to her could change words like history to herstory, so better do it on a one by one if this is a possibility!

Remember to save your document regularly, and if you are working with multiple versions, remember save as allows you to give your document a different name, effectively making a copy of the document which has a different name.

Needless to say guys, if you know all this just igore this blog post and visit again soon for more ponderings on writing!


  1. This is a brilliant post for someone (me!) who struggles to indent paras (so leaves a line instead!) and who really hadn't got to grips with the return icon - and then if I use office clipboard it's all there. Marvellous. There are time when you know there has to be an easier way but you can't work out how, this is really clear! Thanks Sally!

  2. Can I echo Sam? Great post as I've never been the best at formatting etc. So thanks for this I found it most useful! Have a good Xmas. Take care. Caroline x

  3. Glad you enjoyed it Sam and Caroline. More of the usual just in above...Have a good xmas too Caroline, but I'm sure we'll be blogging before then (I know its coming, I'm in denial)

  4. Brilliant...would never have thought of that-- Doh!! Kristi

  5. This is great, Sally, thanks. Will have to print this out I think. XX