Setting up MS Word for editing is akin to creating a perfect ambiance in the office (or home office) or ensuring good ergonomics in the workplace. Decluttering the desktop – both the traditional one and that of the computer – is another essential need. We editors use predominantly work with MS Word, don’t we? Then shouldn’t we aim at maximizing the pleasure component of editing by removing the possible pain associated with editing using Word?
There are two ways of doing this: Ensuring a good interaction between us and Word, irrespective of the project, and ensuring a good project-based interaction. This piece will look at the former. I safely assume that most of us work with Word 2010 or a later version. There may be some changes between versions to what I say here, but things will be more or less the same. We will discuss the following three features in this post:
Viewing a document
The first thing that you do when you open a document is – let me say with the risk of being so naïve – to see it, to “view” it. Word offers more than one way of viewing a document. In the 2007 edition, there are five ways of viewing a document.
A rookie Word user is more familiar with the Print Layout. MS Word is a WYSIWYG program, meaning you get what you see (OK, it is what you see is what you get). So when you print a page from this layout, you exactly get what you see on the screen. Draft view is preferred by editors as it ensures that the focus is on the content rather than on the layout. In fact, you will not see some elements that you see in Print Layout. However, you can zoom in at the same time wrapping the text and see them big. You can also see the style elements. (By default, the style area width is set to zero and so you do not see the style area; the width can be adjusted to make the style area visible.) Full Screen Reading is for readers. There are no distractions; the readers read page after page of content. Outline view is for rearrangement of content. And finally, Web Layout – as the name implies – is how the document will look like as a Web page, well not exactly, but more or less.
So as you see, Word offers different layouts for different purposes: for authors, Print Layout and Outline view; for editors, Draft view (I’ve to agree that there are editors who prefer Print Layout); Outline for the typesetter (well, Word is no longer a primary typesetting engine, but small-time authors can still self-publish using Word); and Web Layout if you want to save the Word document as a Web page.
Customizing the status bar
Your editing experience has taught that it is not always that you begin and complete a project in one go. And every project of yours has come with scores of idiosyncrasies – choice of spelling, choice of using a serial comma, hyphenation preferences and so on. You need to remember certain statuses as well, like track changes and spell-check. It would be handy if you can review these every time you start working on a document after a break. The status bar is for you.
The status bar is the thin ribbon at the bottom of the screen but above the Taskbar. By default, you see the page count and the number of the current page you are in; as you write, you can see that a pen keeps writing on a notebook; and word count is made. This status bar is customizable – right-click anywhere on the status bar, you will see the popup menu to customize the status bar. The following are handy status updates that you would need while editing:
- Page information – to tell you where you are in a document. I periodically watch this space to check whether I’ll be able to complete editing the document as estimated
- Word count – are handy when you calculate standard pages as constituting a fixed number of words rather than as manuscript pages
- Spelling and grammar check – to know whether there are spelling or grammar errors
- Language – to prompt us about the choice of language (British/American/Australian etc.) when we resume editing after a break
- Track changes – to check whether track changes is enabled or disabled
- Caps lock – to check whether caps lock is enabled or disabled.
There are many others. You may add as you need them.
Choosing from the display options
Finally the display options. You need to click on the Word Options (by clicking on the Office Button at the top left corner of your document) and select Display on the left-hand side menu. Under “Always show these formatting marks on the screen”, select whichever you need. Note that all these are nonprint characters, meaning you don’t get to see them when you print a page.
Tab – is needed when you work with tables and indents of paragraphs. Sometimes, we prefer to set columns of text not as tables; tabs are helpful by fixing uniform space between columns
Spaces – if the text is justified, sometimes you may not “see” the spaces between words. Enabling this feature will show a dot between words. A dot corresponds to one single space.
Paragraph marks – to mark the end of a paragraph
Hidden text – to show, as the name suggests, the hidden text
Working with spaces is initially annoying; however, once you are used to seeing them, it becomes difficult to work without them.
How do you customize Word for editing? Share your ideas so all of us are benefitted.
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Over the years I have found that customizations such as you suggest are less important than finding the right add-on tools to Word. For example, whether you prefer draft view and I prefer page layout (which I do prefer) is of little consequence in the quest to be a better, more efficient editor. In contrast, finding and mastering add-on tools that make the job go more quickly, smoothly, and accurately, and thus let me earn a higher effective hourly rate, is of major consequence.
EditTools (Word macros I have created and use daily [www.wordsnSync.com]) is a good example. How do you track, for example, reference numbering and renumbering? Perhaps more importantly, how do you provide your client with a means to also track that renumbering? Or how do you make sure that in every chapter of a 2,000-page manuscript that the author’s (or client’s) preferred spelling of a word with 2 acceptable spellings is followed? Or how do you verify the journal names in a reference list of 300 entries? The list goes on.
It is these tools that make the editing process better because they reduce the need to spend time on mechanical tasks and increase the time available for the more important language tasks.