For Your Eyes Only: Formatting That Boosts Editing

One thing that makes Amy Schneider such a darned fast editor is that she formats manuscripts to make editing easier. It’s weird-looking, but it’s temporary. With just a few clicks, Amy uses Styles to change what is on her screens (and she uses four) to suit her needs, and then back to the publishers’ submission requirements when she’s done.

a map "locator pin" styled as the MS Word logo
Learn more about using Styles in section 11 of the book, or take the Word Essentials course.

With a set of background shading, font size and colour, borders, and text colours, Amy reduces the eyestrain and guesswork of formatting. The key to making this easy to is apply Styles to these elements rather than manually changing stuff and then having to remember to change it back.

“You can make it look however you like,” Amy says. The point is “to make it easy on your eyes (screen-optimized font, visual cues for how things are styled instead of having to squint at the Styles pane) without having to zoom to 300% (which makes for super wide lines) or manually changing stuff and then having to remember to change it back.”

Sample Formatting for Editing Eyes

When ready to edit, the words on Amy’s screen might look like this:

sample text formatted with background shading and borders as described in post
Click the image to enlarge the sample. Amy notes that she prefers backgrounds that are more subtle than this and often includes borders on the words for extra oomph.
  • Body text (first-line indent): 16 pt. Verdana double spaced
  • 1st para after a break: 16pt Verdana, coloured border above the para and down the left side
  • Chapter opener para: 16pt Verdana, coloured border above para only
  • Italic/bold/super/sub/sc/etc. character styles: tint behind text, a different colour for each (makes it hella easy to spot stray spaces and punctuation that shouldn’t be)
  • Heading styles: Different fonts/sizes/colours, assign outline levels so you get an outline to navigate by in the Navigation pane.
  • And so on.

Templates Make It Easy

Creating a template with your preferred styling makes it easy to apply these formats to a file. “Basically,” Amy explains, “assuming the doc already has styles in it: Save a copy of the original client doc as a template, say ClientNameStyles.dotm. (If they have a template attached with a different name, name it that.) Tuck it away. Save the document’s template again as YOUR working version of the template. I call mine AJS_ClientNameStyles.dotm. Now you can go into your AJS_ClientNameStyles template and play with the APPEARANCE of the styles to your heart’s content, but don’t change the NAMES of the styles, just how they look.” That means that the client’s FirstPara style (or whatever they called it) will keep that name in your editing template, but you’ll (in this example) change it to 16pt, double-spaced Verdana with a coloured border.

“Now attach your AJS ClientStyles template to your doc and check ‘Automatically update document styles’ in the Templates and Add-ins dialogue box,” Amy says. She advises to NEVER do this in the style definitions themselves: “that way lies madness.”

Then you’re ready to edit away. Amy cautions that “this also assumes that there is no manually applied formatting in the doc; that it’s all in Word styles. If not, extra steps are needed.

“When the edit is complete, attach the [original] ClientNameStyles template that you tucked away, check ‘automatically update’ in the dialog again, and hey ‘presto,’ the doc looks exactly as hideous as when the client sent it to you, just like they want it.”

Troubleshooting

When creating your preferred Styles, be sure to create “new” styles with unique names. Do not use Word’s default styles like Heading 1 and Body Text.


Be sure to catch Amy Schneider’s forthcoming Chicago Guide to Copyediting Fiction and keep an eye out for her Word templates course, coming soon.



Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the Q&A thread.



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© This blog and all materials in it are copyright Adrienne Montgomerie on the date of publication. All rights reserved. No portion may be stored or distributed without express written permission. Asking is easy!

Cover image by Vicki Hamilton from Pixabay

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