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.

Harvey

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5 thoughts on “Microsoft Word for Writers: The Paragraph Formatting Tool

  1. Okay. The hot link to the Find & Replace post above was flawed but I repaired it. So if it didn’t work before, try it again.

  2. Interesting post. I have always wondered about the Tab setting. Now I need to get back to your explanation to read in depth and see if it also works in Pages on my Mac. I don’t have Word Documents any more, no Windows, just a Mac and Pages – it took some getting used to, but now I like it.

    • Ronny, this is for Microsoft Word only. However, on your word processing program there should be some sort of way to set paragraph settings. I will be no help there, but you can find it if you look long enough.

      ALSO, for all you Apple types out there, Microsoft Word IS available for Apple products. Just sayin’.

    • Yes, those who are subscribed through WordPress received it. But the 500+ who are subscribed through MailChimp didn’t receive it (according to MailChimp).

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