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!

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!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Find & Replace

Hi Folks,

Find and Replace_150The Find & Replace function is the most useful tool in Microsoft Word. With the Find and Replace function, you can pretty much do magic. As one example, some narrators insist on writing “try and” instead of “try to.” If the writer knows his narrator has that particular problem, he can key in (without the quotation marks and where a # equals a blank space) “#try#and#” into the Find What box and then key in “#try#to#” into the Replace With box. Then hit Replace All and in a flash, every instance of “try and” is replaced with “try to.”

Or say for example you’ve learned (erroneously) somewhere, sometime that you’re supposed to put a comma after the word “but” pretty much any time it’s used. You can key (again, without the quotation marks and where the # equals a blank space) “#but,#” into the Find What area and then key “,#but” into the Replace With area. Hit Replace All and your error is corrected throughout the manuscript. (Again, remember where I’ve inserted the pound or hashtag symbol, you should insert a space with your spacebar.)

You do have to think your way through using this feature though. For example, if you want to replace all instances of “try and” with “try to” and you don’t include the space before and after “try” and the space after “and,” when the function finds “He left the country and moved into the city” it will end up reading “He left the country to moved into the city.”

17aFigure 17a

The next figure shows what you will see if you click the Format button at the bottom left of the Find and Replace dialogue.  When you click the Font drop-down, the Font dialogue box will open. When you click the Paragraph drop-down, the Paragraph Formatting dialogue will open. you can then apply font and/or paragraph attributes to anything in the Find What area and/or in the Replace With area.

17bFigure 17b

17cFigure 17c

You are limited in your use of the Find & Replace function only by your imagination. There’s more about Find & Replace in the Paragraph Formatting Tool segment and in the Overall Example, both coming up in the next post).

That’s it for now! Until 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!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Setting Word Options

Hi Folks,

Options_240Here come your Word Options, and there are a ton of them. The good news is, setting them isn’t that difficult and many of them need to be set only once.

To access your options in Microsoft Word 2010, click File > Options. (Note: While the File menu is open your document will seem to disappear, but don’t be confused. It’s still there. To get it back, just click File again.)

Once you click Options, the following dialogue will appear. All dialogue boxes have an OK and Cancel button in the bottom right corner, but to save room I trimmed it off. The first screenshot contains your General Options:

11Figure 11

Look over each set of options carefully. For example, in this one you’ll note that I’ve unchecked the block that says Show Mini Toolbar on Selection. If this were checked, when you select a word or sentence or paragraph, a mini toolbar would pop up asking whether you want to cut, copy, paste, hyperlink, etc. the selected information. You might find that useful, but it drives me nuts, so I unchecked the box.

On the left pane in Figure 10 you can see each of the categories: General, Display, Proofing, Language and Advanced. The next several screenshots will illustrate those categories. We’ve already talked about customizing the Ribbon and the Quick Access Toolbar, and you can explore the Add-Ins and Trust Center on your own. They’re of no consequence to writers that I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the Display dialogue box:

12Figure 12

When you aren’t sure where your paragraph marks or tabs or extra spaces are, you can come to this dialogue box and select Show All Formatting Marks, then click OK at the bottom. When you return to your document, you’ll see all of the normally hidden formatting marks. This can be a very useful tool.

Here’s the Proofing dialogue box. Note that you can set your preferences for correcting and/or checking spelling and grammar. Be sure you check the Use Contextual Spelling option. Doing so will save you a lot of headaches later on:

13aFigure 13a

You’ll notice the AutoCorrect Options button in the upper right of Figure 13a. The following five screens illustrate the various settings you can affect when you click that button. The last one, Actions, is more for business use. I’ve never used it and can’t imagine a use for it in creative writing.

13bFigure 13b — AutoCorrect

13cFigure 13c — Math AutoCorrect

13dFigure 13d — AutoFormat As You Type

13eFigure 13e — AutoFormat

13fFigure 13f — Actions

Here’s the Save dialogue box. Usually, you can set this one once and forget it:

14Figure 14

Here’s the Language dialogue box. Again, it’s pretty much set and forget:

15Figure 15

Below is the Advanced Options dialogue box, albeit in three pieces.

16aFigure 16a

16bFigure 16b

16cFigure 16c

With the Advanced Options box, it’s best that you just get your beverage of choice, sit in a comfortable chair, relax, and go over the possible settings one at a time.

That’s it for this time! Next up, Find & Replace. For my money, it’s the most valuable tool in Word. 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!

Microsoft Word: Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar

This is not some asinine April Fool’s joke, but an actual post. Enjoy!

Hi Folks,

Photo courtesy Can Stock Photo, www.canstockphoto.comTime really is money, and one way to save a great deal of time when using Microsoft Word is to set up your Quick Access Toolbar. Doing so will also give you more screen space, a bonus if you’ve had your eyes more than about 12 years.

We talked about the menu (also called the ribbon) last time, but the fact is, I actually use the tabbed menu items in the Ribbon very little.

For most of my writing and editing tasks, I use the Quick Access Toolbar instead. It takes a little getting used to, but there’s almost no learning curve and it’s much cleaner, quicker and easier once you get used to it.

The Quick Access Toolbar is the small gray horizontal area below the Ribbon and above the horizontal ruler. (If your ruler isn’t there, in the menu select View > Ruler.) Here’s mine:

7_870Figure 7

Whereas with the Ribbon, some commands have to be retained or removed in groups, it’s easy to truly customize the Quick Access Toolbar for your specific needs.

Left to right above are New Document, Save, Save As, Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Bold, Italic, Underline, Insert Page Break, and Left, Center, Right and Full Justified.

Then come some features useful in publishing or setting up ebooks. The little blue flag is a Bookmark symbol. I use that to create a table of contents when I’m publishing a new book. Then there are Remove Header and Remove Footer commands (ebooks don’t have headers and footers), then the Add Hyperlink and Remove Hyperlink commands. Next is the font face, size and color. Then comes the excellent editing (and revision) tool, Track Changes. Here’s the drop-down menu for Track Changes:

8Figure 8

When you click Change Tracking Options, you’ll get this dialogue box:

9Figure 9

When I’m working on an edit for someone else or a revision of my own work, I typically uncheck Track Moves and Track Formatting. The other setting in Figure 7, Change User Name, is self-explanatory.

Back to the Quick Access Menu, the next item after Track Changes is the Replace feature. The Replace feature is so important that it has its own section later. Then comes the Insert Symbol function and the Change Case function (from All Uppercase to Capitalize Each Word, for example). Following that are a few admin functions: the Thesaurus, Spell Checker, Zoom and Word Count features, and then the Paragraph Formatting function. Again, this one is so important that it has its own section later.

Back to more editing and/or revision tools, we have the Accept Change dialogue and Reject Change dialogue. (These also are important for you if you’re having your manuscript edited by someone else who uses Track Changes.) Then comes the Insert Comment function, then Go To Previous Comment, Go To Next Comment, and the Delete Comment dialogue. Finally, near the end I added a highlighter. I don’t use it very often, but it’s off to the side when I need it. At the end (click the down arrow) is the Customize Quick Access Toolbar menu. If you select that and then click More Commands, you’ll see this dialogue box:

 10_750Figure 10

As you can see, in the left pane I’ve selected All Commands. That’s the best place to start. (If you want to choose from fewer commands, you can begin with Popular Commands.)

To add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar, simply select it in the left pane and click Add in the center. It will be added to the right pane. (Note too at the top of the right pane you can select a Quick Access Toolbar For All Documents or for the current document only.)

If you want to remove a command, select it in the right pane, then click Remove. Finally, to rearrange the order of the commands in the Quick Access Toolbar, select the command you want to move and use the up or down arrows to the right side of the dialogue box to move the command.

I encourage you to spend whatever time it takes to set up your Quick Access Toolbar exactly the way you want it. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll use the Ribbon Menu a lot less.

Finally, here’s an important public service announcement of interest to writers. I suspect many readers of this column have or will consider self-publishing through a subsidy POD publisher. Before you do, I urge you to read this article: P.O.D. Secrets Revealed: Ridiculous Contract Clauses!

Note: I recommend publishing your work yourself (You Can Get Help Here). I no longer recommend ANY subsidy publisher.

I recommend strongly against AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and IUniverse and any other POD publisher who wants to charge you thousands of dollars, no matter what “services” they claim to provide.

If the company you’re considering charges you any up front fees for formatting, cover, etc. AND splits the royalties with you, avoid them. Get a lot more advice in this free PDF guide.

Next up, Setting MS Word Options. 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!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Setting Up the Menu

Hi Folks,

There are several items available for use in the Word menu (also called the Ribbon), and most of us use the Ribbon as-is out of the box. However, just in case you want to customize it, here are some brief instructions.

In this screenshot, the Ribbon is the horizontal white area that includes the menu tabs: File, Home, Insert, Page Layout, Review, and View. Other tabs are available (see Figure 5), but these are the only ones I use. The horizontal gray area just below the Ribbon is the Quick Access Toolbar.

1_800Figure 1

To set up the menu, place your cursor to the right side of the small down arrow on the Quick Access Toolbar and right click. This small drop-down menu will appear:

2Figure 2

When you click Customize the Ribbon, this dialogue box will open:

3_750Figure 3

You can see that Popular Commands are listed in the left pane and Main Tabs are listed in the right pane. To familiarize yourself with the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box, click the arrow to the right of Popular Commands. You’ll see another drop-down menu that looks like this:

4Figure 4

I recommend choosing from All Commands, but it’s less important in setting up the Ribbon (menu) than a bit later in setting up the Quick Access Toolbar. You’ll see a similar but much more extensive menu in that section a bit later. More important right now is the Main Tabs pane on the right. You can see my settings.

5Figure 5

Furthermore, you can click the little plus symbol in front of each checked item to add or remove menu items from that tab. For example, if you click the plus symbol before Home, you’ll probably see Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, Styles and Editing. In mine, I removed Styles because I don’t want the menu cluttered with them.

When I click my Home tab, it looks like this:

6Figure 6

If you intend to use Styles though, certainly you should leave them in place. You can easily customize the other tabs in the same way. Whatever you select during this process is what will appear in your Ribbon when you click a tabbed menu item. I encourage you to explore, but I also caution you not to delete a submenu item unless you’re certain you aren’t going to use it.

To add or remove tabs from the menu, simply check or uncheck the box that appears before each tabbed menu item (see Figure 5).

To remove a submenu item, click the plus symbol in front of the tabbed menu item. When the submenu items appear below it, click the submenu item you would like to remove. If Word will allow you to remove the item, the Remove button in the center of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box will be illuminated. If not, it will be grayed-out (see Figure 3).

To add a submenu item, select the item from the left pane of the Customize the Ribbon dialogue box and click the Add button in the center. (There might be some further requirements. If so, Word will provide pop-up instructions.)

Until later, 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!

Microsoft Word for Writers: Introduction

Hi Folks,

This post and the next seven are excerpted and expanded from a seminar I put together awhile back titled “Microsoft Word for Writers.” I also posted this series before, a couple years ago, on this blog. However, I have updated the information where necessary.

I encourage you to comment and share new information, but please question, comment or expand only on the topic of the current post. Today’s post briefly introduces Microsoft Word and offers other valuable resources, including alternatives to Microsoft Word and where to purchase it if you don’t already have it.

The remaining posts in this series, which will appear every ten days, are nuts and bolts stuff, and they will include screenshots for your convenience. If you have two computer screens, you will be able to read the blog post on one screen while practicing in Microsoft Word on the other. Of course you can also simply print out or otherwise save the blog post and practice later. The screenshots are sequentially numbered throughout the series:

  • Setting Up the Menu
  • Setting Up the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Setting Word Options
  • Find & Replace (The Most Valuable Tool in Word)
  • The Paragraph Formatting Tool (includes an overall example of the Find & Replace function used in conjunction with the font- and paragraph-formatting tools)
  • Odds & Ends
  • Styles


Microsoft Word comes as part of the Microsoft Office package. Different versions of Word have different features, or the same features in different places. This series is based on Microsoft Word 2010. If you’re using an earlier version, your dialogue boxes might look slightly different from the screenshots in these blog posts. Any techniques I mention here will be essentially the same, although you might have to think a bit and alter the instruction to suit your version of Word.

To see which version you have, click Help and then About Microsoft Word. (In some versions, Help is a separate tab in the menu. In others, it’s located under the File tab in the menu or in the upper right corner of the Word screen as a white question mark in a blue circle.)

I work with a PC, but from what my Apple-oriented friends tell me, Microsoft Word for Mac is comparable. Thanks to Alison Holt, a dear friend and excellent author, for providing me with the location of this PC to Mac and Mac to PC Converter. It’s an excellent resource.

Where Can I Get MS Word Without Breaking the Bank?

Of course, it’s always better if you can go to Staples or your store of choice and purchase the full version of Microsoft Office outright, and that’s what I recommend if you can afford it. You can also purchase the military and student version on military bases at the base or post exchange if you have privileges (saves sales tax). However, in the real world, you can also visit eBay or Amazon. Key in “Microsoft Word 2010” or “Microsoft Office 2010” and see what pops up. Even if it’s used, if you receive the OEM (original) program on CD and the Product Key, you’ll be fine. Of course, I do not endorse piracy or purchasing or using products illegally.

If you want to purchase the newer Microsoft Office or Word, it’s available either as a subscription (Office 365) or as a dedicated program (Office 2013). I personally prefer Office (and Word) 2010 because it does everything I need it to do and it’s a dedicated program, meaning once I buy it, it’s installed on my computer (the license I bought is for up to 3 computers) and it doesn’t keep costing me in the future. With the subscription version (it’s called Office 365) the subscription is for one year (about $99) and for up to five computers.

Alternatives to Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)

LibreOffice—This is a good alternative for Microsoft Word. Not quite as many bells and whistles, not quite as customizable as Word, but it’s free and it’s very intuitive. I used this one for a long time on the small laptop that is dedicated only to my writing. Like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. Get it at

WPS Office— This is another good alternative for Microsoft Word, and again it’s free. Between this one and LibreOffice, I liked Libre more, but your results might vary. (grin) Again, like Microsoft Office, this is a suite of tools. You can get WPS Office at

Apache OpenOffice—This suite reportedly does everything Word can do, and it supposedly does it even more easily or more intuitively. You can get Apache OpenOffice 4.0 at According to the OpenOffice site, it’s easy to use, and best of all it’s both free and fully compatible with all versions of Microsoft Office. Similar to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice contains a word processor (called Writer instead of Word), a spreadsheet (Calc instead of Excel), a multimedia presentation program (Impress instead of PowerPoint), a drawing program (Draw—here it seems to me they’re taking a page from Corel), plus a database program (Base) and an equation editor (Math). I have not personally used OpenOffice, but I’ve heard nothing bad about it.

Jarte—This is basically a souped-up version of Microsoft’s WordPad. It has all the basic editing and formatting (both font and paragraph) functions, but it does not have the more advance features like Track Changes. Jarte is available at I do have this program and I use it when I want to “just write” without being distracted with all the bells and whistles. Jarte is a free word processor, although you can pay a small fee to get the few extra bells and whistles of Jarte Plus. If you try and enjoy Jarte, I do recommend you upgrade to Jarte Plus just to help support the developers.

Writing Software

I do not recommend or endorse any so-called writing software, but some people swear by it. In case it’s something you would like to try, here are a couple:

yWriter5, for Windows PCs—This is billed at as “novel writing software.” It’s a word processor that “breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author…. yWriter5 is free to download and use, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you find it useful.”

Scrivener—This program used to be available only for Mac, but it’s now available for Windows PCs as well as Mac OSX. Visit the website at You can get a free trial (I don’t know what’s included in the free trial), and the cost for the full version is $40. The site includes video tutorials. Among other features, Scrivener enables you to edit multiple documents, store virtual index cards on a “corkboard,” outline your project, and create collections to help you keep track of notes, etc. If this is something that appeals to you, I encourage you to visit the site to see what Scrivener has to offer.

You can find these and many more helpful links—including dictionaries and translators, various conversion engines, and a lot more—on my website at

Next time, Setting Up the Menu. 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!

A Bunch of New Stuff

Hi Folks,

Yeah, I know it isn’t the 10th or 20th or 30th, but then again this isn’t a normal blog post about writing. I mean, it’s about writing in a way, but first it’s about my website.

I’ve made a lot of changes to the site. The first is a general reorganization. I added a sidebar, made my new picture the subscription button, moved my Meet Harvey stuff (formerly Connect with Harvey) over under my picture, added some things I believe in and recent posts under that.

Over on the right side is an extremely important blogroll (especially the first link) if you are serious about Being A Writer. Below that are a series of links to writers’ resources. If you explore it, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t… well, suffer. 🙂

The menu across the top of the page has changed too, with a couple of exciting additions. I changed the former Events tab to read Calendar. (By the way, my complete series of core seminars are scheduled now. Take a look so you don’t miss the ones you need.) On the far right end of the menu, you’ll see a Downloads tab. If you click that, you will find some valuable information, and it’s free. Click one or more of those links and you’ll see what I mean. I’ll be adding more information papers and documents and ebooks to the Downloads page as I think of new stuff to give away.

The next tab to the left is extremely exciting to me because it represents a new venture: if you click Lecture Series and read that page, you’ll see wheat I mean. In the coming weeks I’ll be recording video lectures on all of the topics and subtopics you see there. Once I get a few recorded and available, I’ll announce that through this blog. Then anyone who’s interested can sign up and begin viewing the ones they would like to view. If you prefer to simply revisit the page from time to time, as the lectures become available I’ll highlight the title in bold blue.

Finally, there will be other changes coming. I’ve decided to divest myself—albeit very slowly—of my publishing responsibilities at StoneThread. I won’t be entertaining any new submissions or extending any of the current contracts. If you know someone who would like to buy StoneThread, let me know. This change will enable me to return to my first love, Writing. Of course, I’ll still make my living as an editor, writing instructor, eformatter and ebook cover designer.

By the way, StoneThread is participating in Read an Ebook Week over at Smashwords. From now through March 8, all our ebooks are absolutely free. Just go to Smashwords Read an Ebook Week and enter coupon code RW100 during checkout to get your selections free of charge. Note: this is a Smashwords promotion, so it doesn’t work at Amazon or Apple or Barnes & Noble. If you poke around over there, you’ll find that a lot of my personal titles are free this week too. Same coupon code applies.

I think that’s it for this time. Oh, if you need the Microsoft Word Essentials for Writers seminar I’m teaching on March 15, you might want to check your calendar and sign up. It’s filling up fairly quickly.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


A New Note in Punctuation

Hi Folks,

Interrobang1When I edit a manuscript, my sole purpose is to make the reading experience seamless for the reader, thereby enhancing the writer’s reputation for excellent writing. When I’m finished there should be no rough edges over which the reader can stumble, no ambiguity or lags in the flow of information that can momentarily confuse the reader, and no punctuation that fails to direct the reading of the work and help convey the mood of the moment.

We probably are all aware of the “new” punctuation mark that’s actually been around since 1962, the interrobang. It looks like an exclamation point imbedded in question mark. It’s intended to convey the exclamatory question. I was going to show you one in context, but most fonts don’t include it yet, so I’ve slipped in a couple of photos instead. The one above is a stylized photo from and the one below is the way the interrobang appears in Microsoft Word’s Wingdings 2 collection. (To find it go to Format, choose Fonts, then Wingdings 2. To find the interrobang, on your keyboard select the ~ or the } or the ^ (the carat above the 6) or the _.)

Note that the interrobang would be used only in dialogue as the narrator never has a reason to display emotion of any kind, even when he’s also a character. As in real life, the narrator and character roles are different even when they’reInterrobang2 played by the same person. But back to reality for a moment. To keep the interrobang in the font you’re using through the rest of the manuscript, I advocate using a question mark followed by an exclamation point: “What the hell are you doing?!”

The question mark should come first because “What the hell are you doing?” is a question. The exclamation point simply indicates that the question was presented in a stressed voice. (Of course, the way the question is worded indicates a bit of stress even without the exclamation point.) Here’s the question presented differently to indicate increasing levels of stress:

“What the hell are you doing?”
What the hell are you doing?
“What the hell are you doing?!”
What the hell are you doing?!

And that isn’t all. In my current editing project, I ran across the situation that stirred this blog post in the first place: a terse statement (again, in dialogue) that had been interrupted by the other character. Here’s that snippet of conversation:

“You don’t give a damn about our race, you pompous son of a—!”
“I’ll tell you one thing, William, and listen to me closely.”

Of course, we know to use the em dash to indicate the abruptness of an interruption. To indicate an exclamation that’s been interrupted, as in the excerpt above I advocate using the em dash followed by the exclamation point: “What the—!” or “Oh man! Holy sh—!” or “But Manuel, I love—!” or “¡Pero Maria, te amo—!”

(Now, for those of you who still believe you should use an ellipsis to indicate an interruption, please don’t. Remember that the ellipsis creates a pause of indeterminate length; that is, whether the pause is medium or long or somewhere in between depends on the context. That’s why the ellipsis is appropriate to indicate halting speech or dialogue trailing away at the end of a sentence—there’s nothing abrupt about it—so to juxtapose the ellipsis with an exclamation point simply wouldn’t work. If I may personify the two marks for a moment, the lackadaisical attitude exhibited by the ellipsis would clash with the sense of urgency conveyed by the exclamation point.)

So there y’go. If you’re wondering about any other punctuation marks or if you believe you’ve discovered new, innovative uses for them or for combinations, please add a comment below.

‘Til next time, happy writing!