MS Word for Writers: Text to Speech

Because I dislike audio books and because I despise machines that talk to me (No offense, Siri and Alexa, but shut up.) it never occurred to me to explore text-to-speech options in Word. I was having a conversation with a writer in Australia about proofreading. I mentioned that some ereading devices have text-to-speech capability and some writers find it helpful to hear their words in a non-dramatic way. Then he came back with, “Did you know MS Word has text-to-speech capability?”

Well, no, I did not. Now I do. If you are reading this, then you do, too.

Activate text-to-speech in one of two ways:

  • In the main toolbar, in the Quick Access area is a down arrow. Click it to open an options menu. Click “More commands” and that will open the menu.

2018-02-10_Word Text to Speech 2

Or

  • Go to File> Options> Quick Access Toolbar.

Once you are in the “Customize the Quick Access Toolbar” menu, scroll down to either “Read Aloud” or “Speak” (it depends on which version of Word you are using), click it, click “Add” and it will appear in the right hand list that shows which commands are active in your Quick Access menu. Click OK.

2018-02-10_Word Text to Speech

To use text-to-speech, select a passage in your doc and click the icon in the Quick Access Menu. Word will read back your text.

Text-to-Speech for Proofreading

I’m not the best person to ask about using anything audio for proofreading. Here is what my friend in Australia told me he did:

“If you select any piece of a Word document and then click this function it reads the words back to you. I played with this for a while and even considered highlighting the whole document and recording each of the chapters as spoken into my MP3 recorder. I did some more thinking about this realising there must be a better way, searched for exporting SPEAK to MP3 and came across an acronym I have never heard of before. DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) which is another feature which can be implemented in Word and exports a complete translation of a document into synthetic speech. It has taken me quite a while to implement on my system—I made a couple of false starts—but now got it working and [it’s] definitely worth the effort. It took about 5 minutes to convert the whole of my 170 A4 pages novel into a series of MP3 files. I can now listen to each of my chapters being read aloud as I read the text in my original Word file and make corrections on the fly. It beats reading line by line with a ruler for example. It is particularly useful in detecting where commas should or shouldn’t be, missing or misspelled words, and the need to identify a speaker somehow in a section of dialogue where identity is otherwise unclear.”

Change the Voice

To change the Text To Speech voice, you have to change it on your computer. Follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click
    Control Panel.
  2. Double-click the Speech icon.
  3. Click the Text To Speech tab.
  4. In the Voice selection box, click the voice that you want to use.
  5. Click OK.

****************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

 

Advertisements

MS WORD for Writers: Pesky Punctuation: Single and Double Quote Marks, and Apostrophes

You wouldn’t think quote marks (single and double) and apostrophes could be pesky. Word users sometimes have problems mainly for two reasons:

  1. Word is an office productivity program rather than just a word processor. Its built-in grammar rules are set up for business writing rather than for fiction. Don’t believe me? Turn on the grammar checker. Follow its advice, Creative Writers, and you’ll sound like a bureaucrat. Their grammatical rules for using quote marks don’t always apply to fiction or creative nonfiction.
  2. Word’s default is the straight quote/apostrophe. No problem while you’re writing and editing. Problems arise when it comes time to turn your writing into an ebook or print edition. Professional publishing requires curly quotes (aka smart quotes) where the left/open mark is a different character than the right/close mark. Apostrophes always look like a right/close mark—even when they are used at the beginning of a word.

My recommendation for the straight vs. curly quote issue is to toggle on AutoFormat so that Word changes straight to curly quotes automatically while you’re typing.

Go to File>Options>Proofing and click AutoCorrect Options… In the menu box that opens, check the box for ‘“Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”’. Click Okay, be sure to click Okay in the main menu. Done. Now whenever you type the single or double quote character it will be a curly quote.

2018-01-19_Word Autocorrect quote marks

What if you’ve been using straight quotes? Or you, like so many do these days, write sections in other programs or devices, and that program uses straight quotes. When you import or paste the text into your Word doc, the straight quotes remain, filling your doc with a mix of straight and curly quotes.

With AutoFormat turned on, transforming straight quotes into curly quotes is very easy using Find and Replace.

For single quotes/apostrophes:

In the Find field: ‘
In the Replace field: ‘
Replace All

For double quotes:

In the Find field: ”
In the Replace field: ”
Replace All

Word will turn all the marks into curly quotes.

Depending on your version of Word, running those operations can create some wrong-way quote marks. Those are fairly easy to find.

For wrong way quotes after a dash (em, en or single) search for:

Em dash:

In the Find field: ^+”

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

En dash:

In the Find field: ^=”

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

Single dash/hyphen:

In the Find field: -“

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the quote mark is turned the wrong way, fix it.

For left/open single quotes instead of an apostrophe in open contractions (’em, ’round, ’60s, etc.) search for:

In the Find field: (space)’
(When I type (space) it means hit the space bar once to create a blank space.)

Use Find Next to search for each instance. If the apostrophe is turned the wrong way, fix it.

British and Australian writers run into a special problem with open contractions. A space+’ looks like a regular open quote for dialogue. It might be easiest to search for the actual words that you’ve contracted—if you can remember what they are. They might turn up in spell check and can be fixed as you find them. There is a search that you can run using wildcards.

In the Find and Replace menu click More to open the full menu. Check the box for “Use wildcards”. You will have to copy and paste a left single quote into the search string.

In the Find field: (space)[‘][a-z]

When you use Find Next, Word will find every left single quote with a space before it and a lower case letter after it. In order to find numbers, such as dates, that have been contracted from, for example, 1960s to ’60s, change the search string to find a range of numbers.

In the Find field: (space)[‘][1-9]

To finish up, doing the following search—

In the Find field: ‘‘ (that’s two single quote marks)

—will root out the remaining wrong way single quote marks that you can fix on a case by case instance.

 

What About Typos?

‘It’s easy to accidentally hit the space bar which not only inserts an unwanted space but also a wrong way quote mark. Like so:

“Now is the time for all good children to line up at the door, said the teacher.

The teacher said, “Come back inside, children.

Basic rules of grammar will help you find those instances. In order to keep the number of search results to a reasonable number and to find only the mistakes, you must copy/paste the left and right quotes into the Find fields. Typing the single or double quote marks into the field will insert straight quotes, and then Word will find so many your eyes will cross. Copying and pasting the correct character is the only way to reasonably search.

To find and fix left/open quote marks that should be right/close marks:

In the Find field: “(space)

Use Find Next to find the typos.

When the typo happens at the end of the paragraph there may or may not be a space after the quote mark. To find those:

In the Find field: “^p

For British and Australian writers, the same general rules apply to single quote marks. Copy/paste the wrong-way turned single quote along with a space.

What About Missing Quote Marks?

I had a writer ask me the other day whether there’s a way in Word to find missing quote marks. Better yet, a way to find and fix missing quote marks automatically. It’s a common typo that’s devilishly difficult to spot while proofreading. Unfortunately, there are so many variables it would be impossible to come up a one-size-fits-all Find and Replace operation.

There is, however, a way to search that will highlight missing quote marks without giving your brain the opportunity to “fill in the blanks with what you meant to do”.

This is a wildcard search that will find every instance of a left/open quote mark closed by right/close quote no matter what or how much text is between them. How does that help find missing quote marks? In the image below you’ll notice there should be a quote mark after “Hey! but the search result goes all the way to the end of the paragraph. If you’re purposefully looking for missing quote marks, you will spot right away that something is amiss. Depending on the size of the doc, this could be a fairly tedious search. The advantage it has over word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence proofreading is that you are looking for and paying attention to just one thing—the missing quote marks.

2018-01-22_Word wildcard missing quoteInsert a search string that exactly matches the string in the image—copy and paste left and right quote marks from the text into the Find field—and check the box for “Use wildcards”. Use Find Next and insert any missing quote marks you find.

****************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

MS WORD for Writers: Pesky Punctuation: Ellipsis

This isn’t a grammar blog so for information on how to use ellipses, here’s a pretty good article.

In Word, and especially in Word docs being formatted for either ebooks or print-on-demand editions, ellipses can be troublemakers. Despite being an actual character, it looks like three periods.

2018-01-16_Word Ellipsis vs 3 PeriodsIf you look very closely you can see the difference. The biggest difference is that where an ellipsis character is stable; with three periods this can happen:

How do I put this..
.

Or

How do I put this.
..

The dreaded orphaned period/s. I see this a lot in ebooks. It’s not a throw-the-book-at-the-wall type of sin, but it can be annoying. It can occur in carefully proofread books, too. The text might line up in such a way that the proofreader never runs across the orphans. When it’s on my device, however, with my preference settings, the text alignment is different, and there could be orphans throughout the book.

The cure for this is to use the ellipsis character consistently in your Word docs. There are two easy ways to insert them:

  • Use a hotkey. Press Ctrl+Alt+. and Word will create an ellipsis.
  • Use AutoFormat. Go to File>Options>Proofing and select AutoCorrect Options… From the menu select AutoCorrect. Check “Replace text as you type” and select from the list the option to change three periods into an ellipsis. Click Okay, Okay again, and now whenever you type three periods Word will insert an ellipsis for you.

2018-01-16_Word Ellipsis autocorrect

Ellipses and Ebooks

If you intend to use Word to format an ebook, I highly recommend you get in the habit of inserting a space after ellipses that occur within sentences. Even though it’s grammatically correct to type this:

Unfortunately, it is your responsibility…Mister Jones, and not your pleasure.

What can happen in an ebook is that the device will interpret the string with the ellipsis as a single entity that shouldn’t be broken when the text wraps. So what appears is this:

Unfortunately, it is your
responsibility…Mister Jones, and not your pleasure.

Really weird spacing with unsightly chunks taken out of sentences. Inserting the space prevents that.

Unfortunately, it is your responsibility…
Mister Jones, and not your pleasure.

If all your ellipses within sentences are joined up, or some have spaces and others don’t, you can use Find/Replace to insert spaces and make everything consistent.

In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+. (press the three keys simultaneously, it will create an ellipsis in the field)
In the Replace field: Ctrl+Alt+.(hit the space bar once to insert a space)
Use Find Next to go through the doc and change only the ellipses that occur within sentences and skip those that end a sentence, have punctuation (comma, period or question mark), are closed by a quote mark, or already have a space.

When formatting ebooks in Word, do not attempt to use spaced ellipses. Yes, it looks better and more polished, but it also increases greatly the chances of orphaned periods. Using Word’s Nonbreaking Space is futile. Many of the conversion programs used by retailers and aggregators to convert Word docs into MOBI or EPUB files do not recognize Word’s Nonbreaking Space. That may change in the future, but until it does, stick to the ellipsis character.

Ellipses and Print Editions

The Nonbreaking Space is useful in print editions. Spaced ellipses do look nicer and more professional in print, plus they help even out justified text. (Take a look at books on your shelves and you’ll see that the majority use spaced ellipses.) Find the Nonbreaking Space by going to Insert>Symbols>More Symbols and click Special Characters.

2018-01-16_Word Ellipsis special characters

There is also a hotkey for it: Ctrl+Shift+Space

You could, if you’re so inclined, manually insert Nonbreaking Spaces. Using Find/Replace is much easier. It does take a bit of preplanning.

  • First, make sure all your ellipses are actual characters and not three periods.
  • Second, make sure that all the ellipses within sentences have a space after them. (See instructions above.)
  • Third, activate Show/Hide by clicking the icon in the Home Ribbon—it looks like a pilcrow: ¶ That ensures you can see what you’re doing since the Nonbreaking Space is an invisible character.
  • Fourth, do the following Find/Replace operations in order. It reduces errors.

First Op: Space ellipses with punctuation: period, comma, question mark and right/close quote.

Ellipsis with period:
In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+.. (it will look like ….)
In the Replace field: ^s.^s.^s.^s.
Replace All

Ellipsis with comma:
In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+.,
In the Replace field: ^s.^s.^s.^s,
Replace All

Ellipsis with question mark:
In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+.?
In the Replace field: ^s.^s.^s.^s?
Replace All

Ellipsis with close quote:
In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+.”
In the Replace field: ^s.^s.^s.”
Replace All

2018-01-16_Word Ellipsis spaced show hide

Second Op: Ellipses used at the beginning of sentences with open quotes:

“…however you wish, madam.”

In the Find field: “Ctrl+Alt+.
In the Replace field: “.^s.^s.^s
Replace All

Final op: Space the remaining ellipses:

In the Find field: Ctrl+Alt+.
In the Replace field: ^s.^s.^s.
Replace All

Done. Now your book has spaced ellipses and no worries about orphaned periods.

*  *  *

Note: If you’re going to turn your book over to a professional for formatting, use the ellipsis character throughout. Tell the formatter how you’d like ellipses handled in your ebook or in print and let them worry about inserting nonbreaking spaces. (Ellipses can be spaced in ebooks using methods other than Word.)

****************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

MS WORD for Writers: Pesky Punctuation: The Em Dash

Judging from my own experience while processing innumerable Word docs, em dashes give writers fits. I see everything from single dashes to multiple dashes to em and en dashes used indiscriminately—often with creative and/or inconsistent spacing. Go here for a good explanation of how they are used.

The number one problem is that the em dash is not on the keyboard. Good intentions or grammatical knowledge aside, it’s easy to make typos.

In MS Word, they are several ways to insert an em dash:

  • Use a hotkey. Press the following keys simultaneously: Ctrl+Alt+- (the minus sign on the number keypad)
  • Use Symbols. Go to the Insert Ribbon, click Symbols>More Symbols. In the task menu, click Special Characters. Em dash is on the list. Double-click to insert it in the text.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Symbols pane

  • Use AutoFormat. Go to File>Options>Proofing. Click “AutoCorrect Options…” and click “AutoFormat”. Check the box for “Hyphens (–) with dash (—). Doing this means whenever you want an em dash, type two dashes and Word will turn it into an em dash.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash File Options Autoformat

  • Use a shortcut to auto-format. Go to Symbols>More Symbols. Click Special Characters. In the list of characters click the em dash once to highlight it. Click AutoCorrect. Check the box for “Replace text as you type” and check the “Formatted text” box. The em dash will be displayed in the “With” field. In the Replace field type in your shortcut. Two dashes (–) is the most common shortcut.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Symbols Autocorrect

  • Create your own hotkey. Go to Symbols>More Symbols. Click Special Characters. Click on the em dash to highlight it. Click the box for “Shortcut key”. The Commands field will have the em dash in it. “Current keys:” will show Word’s hotkey. In the “Press new shortcut key:” insert a new hotkey. In the image, my example is Ctrl+`. Make certain you don’t override any hotkeys you currently use or that can get very confusing. Click “Assign” and the hotkey is live.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash Make a shortcut

  • Use Find/Replace. This is a good method for those who don’t like AutoFormat and AutoCorrect, and have trouble remembering hotkeys. While you’re composing use a double dash to indicate an em dash (–). When you’re done writing, go to the Home Ribbon and click “Replace”. Click “More” to open the full Find/Replace task menu.

In the Find field: – – (two single dashes)
In the Replace field: ^+ (or click the box called “Special” and select Em Dash from the list)
Replace All

Word Quirks to Drive You Nuts

Because Word is an office productivity program rather than a straight word processor, it doesn’t always get that it is perfectly acceptable to end dialogue with an em dash closed by a right (close) single or double quote mark. Depending on your version of Word, it will insert a left (open) single or double quote mark.

“Now is the time for all—“

(I say “depending on your version…” because Microsoft is always updating its products. On the computer I use for fiction, the problem persists despite updates. On the computer on which I’m writing this blog post, Word recognizes that a space or hard return after the quote mark means to use the right quote mark to close it. So if your version is inserting the correct punctuation, skip to the next quirk.)

If your version is putting left (open) quotes after dashes, your best defense is awareness. Either manage them as you go along—I type in a quote mark first, then insert the dash where it belongs—or run a quick Find/Replace operation when you’re done to fix them all with one Replace All. Doing it that way means you will have to copy/paste the correct dash and left (open) quote mark into the Find field, correct the instance, then copy/paste the dash and right (close) quote mark into the Replace field. That way Word knows to do what you intend to do.

In the Find field: ^+“
In the Replace field: ^+”
Replace All (But only if you know there aren’t any em dashes that should have a left quote mark. If that is the case, use Find Next and check each instance before you change it.)

* * *

Another annoying quirk is Word’s tendency to orphan quote marks. The text wraps and the dash stays on one line and the quote mark ends up on the next line.

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash orphan quote mark

From a digital perspective, it’s mostly an aesthetic problem while you’re working in Word. Ebook devices have gotten smarter and I haven’t seen an orphaned quote mark in an ebook in quite some time. So if you’re formatting an ebook, grit your teeth and ignore it in your Word file, confident that your ebook will not experience the same problem. (Just so you know, Kindle devices do not recognize the No-Width Non Break or the Nonbreaking Space characters created in Word. That could change in the future, but currently that’s the way it is. I don’t know how it is with EPUB platform devices.)

Orphaned quote marks are, however, a problem in print documents—you do not want orphaned quote marks in a manuscript, print-on-demand edition or business letter. The solution is to insert a special character called a “No-Width Non Break.‍”

2018-01-13_Word Em Dash No Width Non Break

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do a Find/Replace operation for this; Word disallows the character in search and replace fields. My recommendation is that once you have the print document formatted that you run a search for the em dash with a quote mark. If you find an orphaned quote mark, place the cursor between the dash and the quote mark, go to Symbols>More Symbols, click Special Characters and double-click the No-Width Non Break character to manually insert it. (In the Home Ribbon, click the Show/Hide icon—looks like a pilcrow ¶—so you can see that the character is inserted where you want it.)

* * *

In the next blog post I’ll discuss the ellipsis character, which also seems to give writers fits. Watch this space.

****************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

MS WORD for Writers: Working with Styles

The very best feature of Microsoft Word—or of any word processor or writing program—is styles. Open up Word and you’ll see the Styles handily placed in the Home Ribbon. Many writers have no idea what those do or why they are there. You may have clicked on one out of curiosity and oddball things happened in your doc and it freaked you out.

Fear not. Styles are easy. Easy to use, easy to create, easy to modify. They make writing easier, reduce errors, and prevent destructive coding caused by over-formatting. Trust me. If you’re writing fiction, you only need two: Normal and Heading 1.

(Nonfiction sometimes requires extra heading styles. Formatting ebooks or a print-on-demand edition means using multiple styles. Once you see how easy it is to use Normal and Heading 1 in your daily writing, you’ll have no problem if/when there comes a time when you need multiple styles.)

Normal Style

If the Tool Ribbon is not displaying in your Word setup, click Home. When the Ribbon opens you will see a pin icon in the lower right corner. Click that and the Ribbon will stay open.

2018-01-10_Word Style Ribbon

How it works: Open a new blank Word doc. In the Home Ribbon, hover your cursor over the style that says “Normal”. Right click and select “Modify”. A “Modify Style” tool box will open. At the  bottom check the boxes for “Add to the Styles gallery”; “New documents based on this template”. Under that, click the arrow to open the options for Format. Select “Paragraph”. A Paragraph tool box will open.

2018-01-09_Word Modify Styles

In “Indents and Spacing” select:

Alignment: Left
Outline Level: Body Text
Indentation Left: 0”
Indentation Right: 0”
Special: First Line
By: 0.5”
Spacing Before: 0 pt
Spacing After: 0 pt
Line spacing: 1.5 lines
At: (leave blank)
In “Line and Page Breaks” clear all boxes.
Click OK

Next, from the Modify Style box Format dropdown menu select “Font” and a Font tool box will open.

Font: Times New Roman
Font Style: Regular
Size: 12
Font color: Automatic
Underline style: (none)
Effects: clear all boxes
Click OK

In the Modify Style box click OK.

2018-01-09_Word Modify Paragraph2018-01-09_Word Modify Font

Now type a few paragraphs. Every one of them, without you doing anything except type words and hit Enter, will look the same. Same indent, same font, same spacing. From this point forward, when you open a new blank doc, the Normal style will be your default. Unless you modify the style, a doc you write today will look exactly like anything you’ll write years from now.

The set up above is a suggestion for writing fiction. If you prefer different line spacing or another font or narrower or wider indents, modify the style. Find a look that is comfortable for you and works well with your creative process.

A few cautions:

  • In Line spacing select single, 1.5 lines or double; avoid At Least (it has a specific purpose when creating print layouts). If you prefer no paragraph indents, you will need to add spacing either before or after each paragraph so they don’t all run together. 6 pt will approximate one line of spacing.
  • When selecting a font, stick to the “common” fonts such as Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial or Courier. Some of the fonts included on your computer or imported from other sources are not recognized by other programs or operating systems. If another program can’t substitute its own fonts for your fonts, the recipient will see gibberish.

Heading 1

Heading styles (Word has them built in up to nine levels) affect more than just the look of the text. Headings create navigation in a doc. To see this in action, type a list of headings in your Word doc. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and so on. Without modifying anything, set your cursor at the beginning of a line and click on Heading 1. (Don’t worry about what it looks like right now.) Next, in the Home Ribbon click “Find”. A Navigation pane will open on the left side of the screen. Click Headings and you will see every heading to which you’ve applied a heading style.

2018-01-10_Word Styles Pane

Using heading styles

  • Eliminates the need for page breaks (unnecessary in a work in progress);
  • Allows you to easily navigate through a long doc without scrolling or paging—click an entry in the Navigation pane and Word will take you right to it;
  • Makes it easier to see and repair the common error of incorrectly numbering chapters;
  • Ensures consistency in that you’ll never have to remember the font size or effects, or worry about placement.

Heading styles can be modified the same as the body styles. Hover the cursor over the style, right click, and the Modify tool box will open.

Styles Pane

The easiest way to track styles is to open the Styles pane. (See image above) In the Ribbon Styles command box, click the arrow in the lower right corner of the box. A pane will open. The first time it’s opened it will display a list of every built-in style offered in the template you’re using. The Styles pane can be customized so it only displays the styles in use. Click on “Options…” (at the bottom right of the Styles pane) and a tool box will open to customize the display.

The Styles pane has three Quick Access icons at the bottom. “New Style”, “Style Inspector”, and “Manage Styles”. Clicking any of them opens a tool box for a specific task.

Create New Styles

Select the text you want styled. Click the “New Style” icon in the Styles pane or click the down arrow on the styles display box in the Ribbon and click “Create a Style”. Either way will open a New Style tool box. Give the new style a name and set up the font and paragraph any way you like.

Apply Styles in an Existing Word Doc

If you have a work in progress for which you have not been using styles, applying styles can be easy or tricky depending on how much formatting you’ve done.

The easy way:

  1. Select all the text. (Ctrl+a)
  2. Click the “Clear all Formatting” icon in the Home Ribbon Font command box. (See the image of the Ribbon above for its location.)
  3. With the text still selected, click “Normal” to apply the style.
  4. Deselect the text then scroll through the doc and apply Heading styles to chapter and section headings.
  5. Done.

If however, you clear the styles and apply Normal and your doc is a mess, that means you’ve done a lot of extraneous formatting that needs to be cleaned out. There isn’t enough room in this blog post to cover a thorough clean, but there are four common things writers do that mess up their docs. Running the following Find/Replace operations will take care of them.

1) Tabs: To get rid of tabs, go to the Home Ribbon Editing command box and click “Replace” to open the Find/Replace box.

In the Find field: ^t
In the Replace field: (leave it blank)
Replace All

2) Soft Returns (Shift+Enter): Change soft returns into hard returns.

In the Find field: ^l (that is a lower case L)
In the Replace field: ^p
Replace All

3) Extra Spaces:

In the Find field: (hit the space bar twice to create two blank spaces)
In the Replace field: (hit the space bar once to create one blank space)
Replace All and repeat until results show zero

4) Extra Hard Returns: Be cautious with this operation. If you’ve been using extra hard returns to indicate scene breaks, you need to tag them first. Use pound/hashtag signs or asterisks or even insert [SCENE BREAK]. The same thing goes for deliberate blank lines such as those between stanzas in poetry or songs. If you need deliberate blank lines, tag them so they aren’t lost. When the tagging is done:

In the Find field: ^p^p
In the Replace field: ^p
Replace All and repeat until the results show zero

There you have it, how to use styles. Increase productivity and remove the distraction of “formatting” when you’re supposed to be telling a story.

By the way, even if you don’t use MS Word, almost every word processor or writing program uses styles. In your program of choice, look under Edit or Layout, or search the Help menu. Find styles, set them up, and use them.

****************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

MS WORD for Writers: Views and Working in Web Layout

There’s a simple trick I’ve learned that makes my job easier. Whether I’m writing or processing a client’s Word doc for editing or formatting, I work in Web Layout View.

In the Word Tool Ribbon is Views. Click on that then over on the left side of the Ribbon is the command box for Views. Your choices are Read Mode, Print Layout and Web Layout along with Outline and Draft. Click Web Layout and now your screen acts similar to a scalable website page.

In Web Layout view you are not limited by the “page” size of your document (Word’s default is an 8.5” by 11” page with one inch margins all around). Decreasing the size of the window causes the words to rewrap and adjust to fit the screen—as opposed to Print Layout where decreasing the window can cause text to be cut off. Web Layout has no margins and no pages.

Also in the Views Ribbon is the command box for Zoom. Here you can increase or decrease the size of the text, or change to multiple pages. Word also has a scroll bar at the bottom right of the main screen for quick zooming in and out. The latest version has icons for switching between Read, Print and Web Layout.

(The only time I use Print Layout is when I’m creating a doc for printing. Considering 99% of the docs I process are for digital sharing or for formatting in other programs, that’s not very often.)

You wouldn’t think something so simple as switching views could increase productivity or make writing easier. It’s highly effective for several reasons.

One, I’m a multi-tasker with bad eyes. I keep multiple programs open and viewable so I can quickly switch programs or keep an eye on email or compare one doc against another. I usually work at 150% zoom with a fairly narrow window width. Web Layout keeps everything readable. When I’m working on my own writing, I like to keep the browser open so I can easily look up words or do some research or view images. (Okay, sometimes I play YouTube videos. Inspiration, not procrastination, all right?) Even on the smaller screen of my laptop, this gives me plenty of room to work comfortably.

Two, I’m easily distracted by widows and orphans. Dear Blog Readers, do not for a second pretend you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re writing along, coming to the end of a chapter, and Word drops you to a new page and there it is—a single word. Or you insert a scene break, start the new scene but after only one line, it goes to a new page, leaving that single line sitting on the preceding page like a lonesome doofus. You know and I know, it drives you nuts. Then your writing flow is interrupted while you compulsively “fix” the problem by cutting or adding words, or screwing around with inserting extra hard returns and other nonsense. It’s a form of procrastination easily resolved by working in Web Layout.

Three, it reduces the urge to “format” while I write. Even I, who definitely knows better, gets caught up by the appearance of the words on the screen. When I’m composing fiction or something like this blog post, I do not format other than using basic styles (a subject for another blog post). I don’t insert page breaks or change the alignment of paragraphs or center text. I just write. It doesn’t matter what my doc looks like. Eventually it’ll be shared or formatted for a specific purpose, but that’s later, down the road when I’m finished writing and all the editing, revising and polishing is done. Any “formatting” in the doc will have to be stripped out, thus it’s a total waste of time and mental energy. Not to mention that a lot of “formatting” writers do in Word is destructive when docs are shared digitally or formatted for ebooks.

What about page count, you ask. Web Layout gives you the word count, but not the page count and how are you supposed to keep track of your productivity? If it really matters, you can switch views with one mouse click. Or, if you’re inclined to track your page progress as you write, go the Home Ribbon and in the Editing command box click Find. That will open a Navigation pane on the left side of your screen. It has three options: Headings, Pages and Results. Click on Pages and it’ll display thumbnails of your pages.

So there you have it. Web Layout for increased productivity and fewer opportunities for procrastinating when you should be telling a story.

******************************************************

My goal for 2018 is to teach as many writers as possible how to efficiently and expertly use MS Word as a writing and self-publishing tool. Watch this blog-space for more tips, tricks and techniques. Or, if you’d prefer all the information in one package, including step-by-step instructions for formatting ebooks and print-on-demand editions, WORD for the Wise: Using Microsoft Office Word for Creative Writing and Self-publishing is available at Amazon as an ebook and in print.

 

 

How It’s Done: Work Flow in Indie Book Production

A few days ago I wrote a post assuring writers that book production is hard work, but it’s not unmanageable or even difficult. It just so happens that I am almost finished with a HUGE project and for those writers still on the fence about whether to take the plunge into self-publishing, it might prove educational to see the actual steps I took in producing a title.

(Book production is just one facet of the publishing process. There is writing the book, which I suspect most of you already know how to do. There is selling the book, which is what happens out there in the world. I’m only going to talk about the work flow of actual production.)

Step #1: Editorial

With this project, the writer had access to experienced first readers. Their impressions and comments helped him fix any inconsistencies or problems with plot or characters. Then it was time for copy editing. My turn.

TIP: Every publishing entity has an “in-house style” to cover punctuation, preferred spelling and formatting. I suggest indie writers develop their own in-house style guide. Settle on a style manual and a dictionary. It will help immensely when you deal with copy-editors and proofreaders, plus it will make your entire body of work consistent.

As a freelance copy editor, my client is the writer, not the “house.” That means every change is highlighted (even inserting a missing period) and must be approved or declined by the writer. The writer is The Boss.

TIP: If you are going to turn your manuscript into an ebook, I suggest you find an alternative to Track Changes in Word. Track Changes inserts nasty coding into the file and it’s a bear to remove.

Now the manuscript is ready for production.

Step #2: The Interior

I have a fairly specific work flow I use for any book production project. It looks like a lot of steps, but it’s actually pretty efficient. I’ll break it down for you:

  • Make a copy of the original document and open in Word (for this I use my ancient version, less garbage to deal with)
  • Tag all special formatting, tag the scene breaks (if they aren’t already) and tag any text that require special styling (poetry, letters, section heads, etc.)
  • Copy/Paste the document into a text editor.(I use Notepad++, powerful freeware that is simple to use and makes ebook formatting a breeze.)
  • Prep the text: remove extra spaces and blank lines, turn quote marks and apostrophes the right direction, deal with reserved characters, etc.
  • Make the graphical elements (in this case, chapter heads and a scene break indicator)
  • Style the text for a MOBI format. (Since I have Kindles, I usually do the MOBI format first.)
  • Load the ebook onto a Kindle and proofread.

TIP: Do not ever skip proofreading. 99% of the goofs I see in ebooks could have been caught and fixed if the publisher had proofread the ebook. If you do not own an ereading device, then download the Kindle Previewer or Calibre or Adobe Digital Editions and proofread it on your computer.

  • Compile the proofed text into a new file. (This book will be an Amazon exclusive, but if it weren’t, I would use the proofed text to make the EPUB and Smashwords formats)
  • Use the squeaky clean text to format the trade paperback. This will be printed by Createspace. You can find their requirements for the book interior here.
  • Send the pdf of the print layout to the writer for another proofread. (In this case, the writer wanted another set of eyes, so we brought in another proofreader–it’s what the trad pubs do, or are supposed to do anyway.)
  • Make corrections to the print format AND in the ebook file.

TIP: Get in the habit of making a copy of your file for every step in the process. That way if disaster happens (computer crash, power surge, forget to save, whatever) you only have to take one step back to recover your work.

  • Use the proofed text to format the hardcover version (essentially the same as the trade edition, but with some extra details)

Step #3: The Cover

This project required three versions of the cover because there are three editions: digital, trade paperback, and hardcover. I handled the ebook cover, my partner Jayne did the paperback cover, and the hardcover will be a partnership between me, the writer and the printer (it’s complicated).

TIP: Whether you hire a cover designer or do it yourself, before you make any decisions go to Joel Friedlander’s blog and study the monthly cover awards. Just by looking at the successes and failures you will absorb many of the guiding principles behind making an effective cover.

The writer commissioned the cover art from the artist who had done the cover art for several previous books in the same series. (Emanuel Schongut, he’s incredible). I used a freeware program called Paint.net to make the ebook cover. I went shopping for the perfect font and decided I needed two. One I purchased at fonts.com (very reasonable, less than twenty bucks) and I found one for free at dafont.com.

TIP: If you are doing your cover yourself and need art, Google “stock images” and you’ll come up with hundreds of sites that sell (or give away for free) just about any image you can envision. There are also artists who offer stock covers you can purchase and then you either hire the designer to do the typography or do it yourself.

coverThe trade paperback cover was a little trickier. Paint.net is a powerful program, but Adobe Photoshop is way more powerful and it can do some tricky tricks either I can’t do or haven’t figured out how to do. So the job was passed to Jayne. That edition will be printed through CreateSpace. You can find their cover dimensions requirements here. You’ll need to know how many pages your finished book will be and what size book you want. CreateSpace has templates you can use for the layout.

TIP: When doing an ebook, you’ll need the cover first. If the cover isn’t ready, you can make a placeholder to serve while you convert and proofread the ebook. When the cover is ready, just replace the placeholder with the real cover.

The hardcover edition cover is a little different. It’s a special limited edition and the cover will be really fancy. Essentially I’ll be making plates for the printer. Most indies won’t have to worry about this step. If you do, talk to your printer about what you need to do.

So that’s it. Is it a lot of hard work? Why, yes, indeed it is. But broken down into steps, it is quite manageable. Even with editing, proofreading and waiting for cover art, this project has only taken about a month. Instead of having to wait twelve to fifteen months for a trad publisher to dribble out editions (which I guarantee wouldn’t be better than what our team has produced, and in the case of the ebook would be worse), this book is now available for pre-order on Amazon (ebook and trade paperback) and will be released for Christmas this year.

Whether you are doing a huge production like this one or just making an ebook, the steps are pretty much the same: Editing, Interior Format, Cover. Break the big steps into smaller steps and you have a project that’s manageable.

_______________________________

If you happen to be curious as to why best-selling, multi-published writer, Lawrence Block decided to self-publish his brand new novel in his most popular series, you can read about here.