Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stop Document Bloat

Another habit that contributes to document bloat is empty returns…blank lines with no text. When you reach the end of a paragraph, do you hit Enter twice to create space between paragraphs? If yes, you’re creating empty returns…and bloating your document. So what are you suppose to do? Use body text styles.

I’ve talked about styles before when I addressed what you need to do to generate an electronic table of contents. You need to apply heading styles to be able to use this electronic feature. What I didn’t explain at the time is there are lots of other styles that you can apply to text. When you begin, applying styles is going to seem silly. The big payoff comes when:
--You have to make a change, because you change the style rather than individual paragraphs
--You complete your document because you’ll have a smaller document

The first thing you need to be able to do is see styles.

Create a Document

Open a blank Word document, and add several paragraphs of text. It doesn’t matter what the text says. Be sure to press the Enter key only once at the end of each paragraph. You’ll have a solid block of text with no space between paragraphs.

Display the Styles and Formatting Pane

Word 2003: Select Format--Styles and Formatting. The pane appears beside your document.

Word 2007/2010: Select the Home tab, and locate the Styles group. Click the small arrow in the lower right of the group box. Or, hold down Shift+Ctrl+Alt, and then type S. The pane appears beside your document.

Depending on the version and the document, you might have just a few styles or you may have many. At the very least, you should see the following:
Heading 1
Heading 2
Heading 3
Normal

The Normal style is the one you are interested in. By default, all text in a Word document uses a Normal style.

Change the Space Before and After the Normal Style

1. Right click the Normal style, and then select Modify. The Modify Style dialog appears.
2. Click the Format button, and then select Paragraph. The paragraph dialog appears.

3. Locate the Spacing section on the Indents and Spacing tab.
4. In the Before and After fields, enter 6 for 6 points.
5. Click OK on the Paragraph dialog, and then OK on the Modify Style dialog.
6. Inspect the change in your document. You should see 6 points of space between paragraphs.
7. Repeat these steps, entering 12 for 12 points in the Before and After fields.
8. Inspect the change in your document. You should see 12 points of space between paragraphs.

Be sure to notice that the change occurs in every paragraph where you have the Normal style applied. When you have long documents, being able to change the style and have the change apply to every place where the style occurs can be a real advantage.

If you stopped to look at the screens along the way, you’re sure to have noticed that there are lots of changes you can make. Upcoming posts will cover most if not all of the possibilities for changing and using styles.

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