Tag Archives: hacks

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.”


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

Quickly Recreate a Custom Ribbon after Catastrophic Failure

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Find out more about creating custom ribbons in Section 33.4 of the book and in our courses!

Suddenly, my custom ribbon stopped working! We don’t ask Word why it does things, we just fix it or find a workaround. I found a quick way to copy over all my favourite functions onto a new custom ribbon, and ditch the one that was making Word crash every time I clicked on it. It’s as easy as drag and drop from the old ribbon to the new, once you’re into the “Customize ribbon” interface. I hope you never need it, but when you do, you can watch the solution, here!

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Upcoming Word Courses for Editors!

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Q&A: Can I make a list of in-text citations without a macro?

QIs there a way to make a list of all in-text citations without using a macro?

AYes, with a wildcard search!

Great question. Many editing checks could be done with such a list, and creating one is easy:

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Q&A: How can I tell what section of a document I’m in?

QI’m working in a document with dozens of headings and subheadings. I want to check which section I’m working in without having to scroll back up to find the heading. Is that possible?

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Delete Resolved Comments Only

As we get used to working with Modern Comments, best practices will emerge and fewer snafus will occur, we hope. For now, I’m finding those who aren’t fully indoctrinated yet are confused by seeing resolved comments, not to mention that they make outstanding queries harder to spot amid the clutter. This post explains how to get rid of only the resolved comments without clicking Delete thread on every single one.

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Q&A: Is there an easy way to make a list of figures?

QIs there a way to generate a list of figures and tables in a book (in the FM)? Using a Word function?

AYes! When styles have been applied to the captions/titles, it’s a snap! There are also plugins and macros that will do this, explained below.

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