Microsoft Word for Writers: A Few Notes About Styles

Hi Folks,

Drive Carefully_200This post will be the last in my Microsoft Word for Writers series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and gotten some benefit from it. Of course, I’ll be back in about 10 days with a new post on a topic of interest to writers, self-editors and self-publishers.

Some have mentioned that I haven’t explained Microsoft Word’s styles function. That’s because this blog series is intended as a general guide to using Microsoft Word as a writer or editor, not for laying out ebooks or periodicals or other publications. However, I’ll touch on the styles function here just to round out the series.

Per my friend, Chris O’Byrne, “A style is a way of defining how a paragraph (or character) will look.” Working with styles is simply a matter of defining the style, and then applying the style. Let’s work up an example.

Say you want all the chapter heads in a book to be 18 point bold Helvetica. You want the chapter heads left aligned with no indentation and you want a 24 point horizontal space (blank line) before each chapter head and a 12 point space after it.

To Define the Style

in your menu (or ribbon) you would click the Home tab and look for Styles or Quick Styles. This is how mine looks:

Figure 20Figure 20

If you click the Quick Styles icon (in Figure 20 it’s on the right), you’ll get a pop-out menu that looks similar to this (please forgive the warped appearance of the final few pics in this post):

21Figure 21

The third item in the top row is the Heading 1 style. If you right click that icon, in the ensuing dropdown menu you’ll see Modify.

22Figure 22

Finally, when you click Modify you’ll see this dialogue box:

23Figure 23

As you can see, you can change the font face, size and attributes about 1/3 of the way down the dialogue box, but if you click Format at the bottom left corner, you can set the Font and Paragraph aspects as well as several other settings. When you’re finished, simply click OK.

To Apply the Style

once you’ve defined the style, you’ll select (highlight) each chapter head, then go to your Quick Styles menu and click Heading 1. Word will apply all aspects of the style to the selected text. Of course, you can also modify the definition of any of the styles in the Quick Style menu following the steps above.

The true benefit of using styles comes later. Say you decide you’d rather all the chapter heads would be 16 point Arial instead of 18 point Helvetica. Instead of selecting and changing each chapter head, you would simply right click Heading 1 in your Quick Styles menu and modify it to use Arial instead of Helvetica and 16 point instead of 18 point. Once you click OK, all the chapter heads would automatically change from 18 point Helvetica to 16 point Arial. It’s just that easy.

However, although such mechanical niceties certainly can come in handy when laying out a book or a periodical for publication, as a writer (or editor) that isn’t your job.

As I’ve been telling writers since the mid-1990s, in a manuscript you don’t want any special formatting. You don’t want exciting and flashy. You don’t want anything on the page to distract the reader (meaning the editor or publisher) from the story.

To prepare your manuscript for submission to agents, editors and publishers

First, use Times New Roman 12 point font throughout. No great mystery here. I recommend Times New Roman because if you use an em dash, it will show up as the right length. The manuscript should be doublespaced throughout.

The title of the overall work should be centered (no indentation) and in bold, but the prologue, epilogue (if any) and chapter titles and subtitles should be left justified (still no indent) and in bold.

The body text should be left justified in 12 point font, and the first line of each paragraph should be indented by 1/2″.

Use the paragraph formatting tool (see my post The Paragraph Formatting Tool) to set everything.

Here are some don’ts for you

  • Don’t use the Tab key or the spacebar key to indent a paragraph as they take up valuable kbs and annoy editors.
  • Don’t insert two spaces after a sentence. We aren’t using typewriters anymore. Add one space. Modern word processors adjust that space.
  • Don’t use any special formatting, including underlining, oversized fonts, page borders, lines (rules), or shadows.
  • Don’t use bold other than in titles.
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS anywhere, including titles. Use italics (very sparingly) to indicate emphasis.
  • Don’t insert a page break anywhere, even before beginning a new chapter. Just hit the Enter key an extra time at the end of a chapter to leave a blank line, then type the name of the next chapter, skip another blank line and begin the chapter text.

Thank You

That’s it for now. Until next time, keep writing!

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Odds & Ends

Hi Folks,

ApplesOccasionally I receive an email from a writer who has no idea how to insert an em dash (there are a few ways) or what I mean when I suggest they use the Save As function to rename a document or how to save a document to a different folder on the desktop or to a flash drive, for example. Here are a few notes that might help:

To form an em dash in Word try pressing Ctrl/Alt and the hyphen (minus) key on your number pad if you have a number pad, or the regular hyphen key if you don’t have a number pad. (You can form the en dash (used only to indicate a span of number, and the word “to” is better) by pressing Ctrl and the hyphen key. If that doesn’t work, it’s because your shortcut keys aren’t set up yet. More on that in a moment. If this doesn’t work,

in the Word Menu, go to Insert > Symbols and find the em dash. Select it. (Or go to Insert > Symbols and look for the little blocks toward the bottom of the dialogue box. You’ll see a space for Character Code. Type in 2014 and in From, select Unicode (hex). This will find the em dash and select it for you.) You’ll see the shortcut key just below the Character Code box. You can change the shortcut key and you can also set the AutoCorrect options from here.

Otherwise, to access the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat Options

  • in the Word menu, click File > Options > Proofing.
  • Select AutoCorrect Options.
  • In the dialogue box, select the AutoCorrect tab.
  • In the Replace block put two or three hyphens — and in the With block put an em dash —.

Then be sure to select the AutoFormat As You Type tab  and check the little box that says Hyphens (–) with dash (—).

That’s all there is to it. If you’re still having problems with em dashes, feel free to email me.

Using Save As—In the first item in the Overall Example above, I wrote that typically when dealing with someone else’s manuscript, I will open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file. This also is an excellent technique to use if you want to keep track of different drafts of your story or essay or novel or memoir.

In Figure 19, you will see that using the Save As dialogue, you can choose not only the new filename (in the File Name area) and the file type (in the Save As Type area) but also the location (left pane).

19Figure 19

Say you’ve finished your novel. You’ve put it away for awhile and have decided to read through it and do a revision or rewrite. Here’s what I recommend:

1. Open the original file. Say the filename is GreatAmericanNovel.doc. If dates are important to you, I recommend including the date in the filename. This also will keep the revisions in sequence.

In the upper left corner of your Word menu, click File > Save As (or the Save As icon on the Quick Access Toolbar). When the Save As dialogue box opens, put in the date and then the name of the document, all in the File Name area. I use a YYMMDD format, so if I saved the file on August 17, 2013 the filename would look like this:


If I revised the document significantly six months later (in February 2014), the filename of that new document would be

140217_Great American Novel.doc.

If you don’t care about the date, you might simply use numbers or alpha characters to indicate your revisions from oldest to newest. Then your filenames might look like this:


2_GreatAmericanNovel.doc or



Finally, note that you can also change a file name without going through the Save As function. If you have the file on your desktop, for example,

  • Right click on the file
  • From the dropdown menu select Copy
  • Move your cursor to another location and right click again. This time from the dropdown menu select Paste. A copy of the file will appear.
  • Click the file once to highlight it (select it). Don’t open the file.
  • Click once again in the file name. You’ll notice that the filename is selected, except for the extension.
  • Type the new file name.

Changing the File Location—If you’ve already created the file and simply wish to move or copy it to a new location, that’s easy to do. First, be sure the file is saved and closed.

Next, put your cursor on the file, press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the new location. If you also hold down the Ctrl button on your PC as you drag the file with your mouse, it will simply copy the file to the new location. If you hold down the Shift key as you drag the file with your mouse, it will move the file (not just copy it) to the new location.

If you want to save the file on a flash drive, here are the steps:

  • Insert the flash drive.
  • In the lower left corner click Start. When that dialogue opens, in the right pane click Computer. You’ll see one or more Hard Disk drives, and below that you’ll see one or more Drives With Removable Storage. Your flash drive will be one of them.
  • Put your cursor on the file or folder you wish to move or copy to the flash drive. Press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the flash drive location. Again, if you also hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard while you’re dragging the file or folder, it will be copied to the flash drive instead of being moved.

Selecting Text / Copy or Cut & Paste—You also use your cursor to select text. Simply put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select, hold down the left mouse button and “drag” the highlight through the end of the text you want to select. Then release the mouse button.

To select a large amount of text, put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select and left click. You don’t have to hold down the mouse button. Now press your Shift key and move your cursor to the end of the section of text you want to select, then click your left mouse button again. The text will be selected.

Finally, you can Select All (select the entire document) by clicking Ctrl/A.

Once you’ve selected the text you want to select, you can copy it (to paste later).

Release the left mouse button and move your cursor up to Home > Copy (or Cut) or simply click Ctrl C to copy or Ctrl X to cut the text you highlighted. This copies the selected text to your computer’s clipboard.

To paste the same text, move your cursor to wherever you want to paste the text. You can paste the text in the same document, in a different document, or even in a different program.

Now either go to Home > Paste or click Ctrl V to insert the text you copied or cut earlier.

If you have each chapter of your novel in a different document, you can put it all into one document by opening ChapterOne.doc. First, rename it (Save As) WholeNovel.doc. Set it aside.

Now open ChapterTwo.doc. Press Ctrl A, then Ctrl C. Now move your cursor to the end of WholeNovel.doc and press Ctrl V. The entire text of ChapterTwo.doc will now be appended to the end of WholeNovel.doc. Repeat the process with ChapterThree.doc, ChapterFour.doc etc. until you’ve moved all the chapters into WholeNovel.doc.

Next up, the last post in this series, an offering on using Microsoft Word’s Styles.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!


Note: Please forgive, but I just realized MailChimp did not send out this post the first time. For that reason, I’m reposting it today, 9 May. After that, we’ll be back on schedule with two final posts to close out the Microsoft Word for Writers series. My apologies for any confusion. Thanks.

Hey Folks,

Learning. One thing that’s common to all of the professional writers I know is that they never stop learning.

It’s why I spend a half-hour or so every day checking blog posts of writers I admire, like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Steven Pressfield and JA Konrath. (You can find links to their sites in the right sidebar of my website at

Do I attend endless writers’ conferences in which the same presenters with different faces spend half their presentation time name dropping and the other half parroting the same tired (and often wrong) information? No.

Nor do I attend presentations by writers who have published fewer than five novels or fewer than fifty short stories. I seek advice from and learn from those who are more advanced than I am. I recommend you do the same.

So what are valid sources?

1. Writers who tell good stories and whose work you admire. If you’re very fortunate, those writers offer advice in the form of a blog and/or actual instruction. But even from those writers

  • Don’t assume they’re right about everything, especially for you and your work.
  • Don’t expect them to hand you a fix-all, everything-is-wonderful solution to all your writing problems.
  • Go in with an open mind. Listen to everything, keep what makes sense to you, and toss the rest.

2. Writers who are hugely successful.

3. Short stories or novels that are so well written they take your breath away or otherwise startle you.

How do you decide from whom you should learn?

1. Read a cross section of their work.

  • If they write short stories, read several, especially if they write under different pen names. Read at least a couple from each pseudonym.
  • If they write novels, and you prefer novels, read at least two, preferably in different genres. Bear in mind, a good writer will tell a good story regardless of length.
  • If you enjoy what you read, study it to determine why.
  • Note: Always read for pleasure first. If the story grabs you, try to figure out how during a second pass. I’m currently studying one of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s short stories.

2. If possible, talk with the person before paying for more formal instruction. Does the person come across as honest and knowledgeable?

As a way of giving back, I’ve started a new daily blog over at

For those of you who would like to be prolific professional writers, it’s a place where you can learn by example.

At you get an inside glimpse at my daily life (you’ll see that it isn’t all writing), an almost daily Topic of the Night on writing, and actual day by day writing numbers.

As I’ve mentioned here before, about a year ago I first became aware of Heinlein’s Rules (no, they’re not only for SF writers) and a technique called Writing Off Into the Dark.

The convergence of that set of rules with that massively powerful writing technique changed my life completely. I am not kidding, and I am not exaggerating.

At I provide proof of that change and a daily accounting of my work(s) in progress. If you aspire to be a prolific professional writer, if you aspire to reach the level where writing the next story is the most fun you’ve ever had, drop by and check it out.

It’s free. And it’s the perfect companion to this blog.

By the way, right now there’s an excellent post on Heinlein’s Rules at FrostProof808.

Next time, Microsoft Word for Writers: Odds & Ends, the penultimate post in the Word for Writers series.

‘Til then, happy writing!


PS: One of Gervasio’s magic realism short stories is featured in a beautiful new online magazine called Mystic Illuminations. Go. Read. Enjoy.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you!

Microsoft Word for Writers: The Paragraph Formatting Tool

Note: Please forgive, but I just realized MailChimp did not send out this post or the one after it. For that reason, I’m going to republish both of them. This one will go out on 8 May and the next one, which is titled “Learning,” will go out on 9 May. After that, we’ll be back on schedule with two final posts to close out the Microsoft Word for Writers series. My apologies for any confusion. Thanks.
Hi Folks,

The Paragraph Formatting Tool

First, let’s get this Tab and spacebar stuff out of the way right up front: the writer should never use the Tab key to indent the first line of a paragraph. Instead, he should use the Paragraph Formatting tool. And while we’re on the topic, the writer should use the Spacebar key only to insert one space between words and sentences. I know, I know… you were taught to add two spaces at the end of a sentence. I understand. I was there too, but that was with typewriters. If you want to use a typewriter to type your manuscript, feel free to hit the spacebar twice after a sentence. Otherwise, it’s just one space. Modern word processing programs adjust that space.

Figure 18a illustrates the Indents and Spacing for a typical standard manuscript that will be submitted to a publisher.

Notice that you can also use this dialogue to set the default for your future manuscripts.

18aFigure 18a

Figure 18b shows the Line and Page Breaks tab. Notice that all items are unchecked.

18bFigure 18b

 Oh, and that Tabs… button on the lower left? If you click that, you’ll see a dialogue box in which you can set the distance between your tabs, etc. However, as I’ve already said you should ignore the Tab button on your keyboard, the best use for this dialogue box is to Clear all tabs. (If there are any tabs in your document, you’ll see a little indicator on the Horizontal Ruler at the top of the page. If the ruler isn’t there, in your menu click View and then check the box next to Ruler.)

Overall Example

Here’s an overall example of Find and Replace used in conjunction with the Font and Paragraph formatting functions. I’m talking about this as an editor, but you can use these functions in the same way as a writer to revise your work.

Say I receive a manuscript in which the main title is 24 point Arial, the chapter heads are 16 point Cambria, and the body text is 12 point Times New Roman. The writer has used the Tab key to indent the first line of each paragraph by ½”.

Fortunately the writer has been considerate and numbered the chapters with digits instead of writing out each number. Here are the steps I follow to prep that manuscript for my edit:

  1. Open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original file goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file.
  2. Hit Ctrl/A to select the entire manuscript, then set the font as Times New Roman 12 point. Then I open the Paragraph Format dialogue, set it to match Figure 18a and click OK. The manuscript is transformed.
  3. Open Find and Replace. Put Chapter ^#^# (Chapter space any digit any digit) in Find What. Then I click Format > Font and click Not Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. Under Special I select First Line by 0.5”. Finally I select Match Case from the checklist below Search Options.
  4. I put my cursor in Replace With. I don’t enter anything in that area though. Instead I simply click Format > Font and click Bold. Then I click Format > Paragraph. This time under Special I select None. Then I click Replace All. In a flash, all chapter heads from 10 through 99 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  5. I repeat 3 and 4 with Chapter ^# (only one digit this time). When I hit Replace All, chapters 1 through 9 are moved to the left margin and in bold font attribute.
  6. Ah, but remember those Tabs that I told you earlier not to use? Now I Select All again. In the Find and Replace dialogue, I put my cursor in the Find What area and click Special at the bottom of the dialogue (see Figure 17c in the Find & Replace post). I select Tab Character and a ^t appears in Find What. I put nothing in the Replace With area. (In fact, if there’s anything in the Replace With area, even a space, delete it.) Then I click Replace All. All the tabs are replaced with nothing.
  7. I also usually use Find What to look for paragraphs that have an extra space at the beginning. I put my cursor in the Find What area, click Special, and select Paragraph Mark. A ^p appears in the Find What area, and I put a space after it (using the space bar). In the Replace With area, I put only a ^p (no space following it) and hit Replace All. Done.
  8. Most writers still add an extra space after sentences or paragraphs for some reason. Again, Find and Replace to the rescue. I put my cursor in the Find What area and hit the spacebar twice; then I move the cursor to the Replace With area and hit the spacebar once. Replace All and I’m finished.

Once I’ve done these things, I can begin editing the document without it driving me nuts. Or, having done these things to my own writing, I can submit my story to a contest or a publisher without fear of embarrassment. There are many more uses for Find and Replace. Just be careful to look for exactly what you want to find, and remember there’s always the Undo function.

That’s it for now! Next up, Odds & Ends. Until then, happy writing.


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks!