Archive for March 6th, 2011

Whipping Office 2007 and 2010 into shape

Oh for the long lost and lamented Office 2003.  I’ve just bought a new laptop, and no longer having legal installation media for Office 2003 I was forced to go with what I did have legal access to: Office 2010.  Now I’ve heard said that the new menus are fantastically approachable for the newbie.  Unfortunately that means there’s a learning curve for the user upgrading from 2003.  So I went hunting, and for anyone who hasn’t found the settings, I thought I’d do a quick walk through of manuscript formatting in Word 2010 which should also apply to 2007.

First things first.  On the default ribbon is a nice button marked “Change Styles.”  And look what’s in there:

This looks like it would be the short cut way to create Manuscript formatting in Word. And if anyone at Microsoft was a fiction writer and knew from manuscript formatting, this button would be sufficient.  Unfortunately, this isn’t going to do anything for you, you’ll need to get your settings elsewhere.  First, let’s fix auto-correct.

To do this, we’ll need to get to Options.  In Word 2003 that can be found clicking the big round office button.  That’s gone in 2010, replaced with a smaller button with the Word logo.  Click that.  Click options.  From there you’ll have access to your auto correct options:

From there you’ll want to make a few changes.  First, you’ll be presented a list of auto corrected elements, including the dreaded ellipsis character.  Delete that entry from the list:

Then head over to the Auto Format as you Type tab to kill smart quotes and the em-dash replacement:

Close out of all of this, and it’s time to fix the biggest problem with Office 2007 and 2010: the cursed spacing between paragraphs.  You can fix this from the extended paragraph options, available by clicking the little link highlighted in orange:

The solution is to set Spacing After to 0 pt.  Also, here’s where you set your double-spacing.

Last up: margins.  These can be found from the Page Setup options in the Page Layout ribbon:

And make sure all your margins are set to 1″:

Now you’re all ready to go.  Just gotta set the font to Courier New, 12pt and type away.  Let me know if this post helps, and whether I’ve missed any major obstacles to manuscript formatting.  I might try to put together a .docx template in the future or add this as a tab at the top of the blog.

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Google Ngram for Writers

Just thought I would pass along this interesting tidbit.  I suspect a lot of people have seen Google Ngram, which tracks the relative popularity of various words from roughly 1800 until 2010.  Tonight I discovered it can be a rather handy tool for a writer.  In this case, I was looking for the best term to use for black people during the 1880s, knowing that there was a transition from “negro” to “Negro” before both terms were eventually looked down on during the Civil Rights movement.  Since the tool is case sensitive, I was able to actually put both words in, and found that the capitalization became more the norm right around 1930, meaning my 1880s set story is going to stick to the lower case.

So keep it in mind, it can be an interesting tool when working on getting period language correct.  Just so long as you don’t then get distracted by such things as “what causes the big trough in the red line during the 1950s?”


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