Basic Word Processing Tips for Writers
Word processors are so widely used now that I tend to take it for granted that most writers know how to perform basic tasks (e.g. double space their work, count the number of words, and indent a paragraph automatically). Every so often, however, I see a manuscript that reminds me that there are a lot of writers who are still using a word processor as they would an old-fashioned typewriter.
They put a double space after a full stop; they hit the space bar half a dozen times to indent a paragraph, and they tap 'Enter' at the end of every line to achieve double spacing. This can result in some peculiar effects - such as capital letters at the beginning of every 'double spaced' line. (The computer thinks you are starting a new paragraph when you hit 'enter', so it automatically starts it with a capital letter.)
Here are a few tips on how to perform basic word processing functions. I'm using Microsoft Word for these examples, because it is the most widely used word processor (and the one I'm most familiar with). However, you should find that most word processors work in a similar way.
How To Double Space Your Work
If you set your work to the accepted layout for business letters and documents, your paragraphs will all be flush left, and you will have a space between each paragraph. Don't use this format for your manuscripts- otherwise when you double-space your work, the spaces between get double spaced as well. You will waste a lot of paper, and it can be annoying for the reader if you have a series of short paragraphs and therefore a lot of white space on the page.
Before you start typing, set your paragraphs up using this method:
Sometimes (for example, when you want to start a new chapter) you will want to move to a new page when you are only part-way down the existing page. DON'T just keep tapping the 'Enter' key until you eventually arrive at a new page. This makes it harder for the editor to format the work later on.
To finish working on one page and move quickly to a new one, click on 'Insert' on the menu bar at the top of your screen. Then click on 'Break'. A box will pop up so you can choose what kind of break you want - in this case, it's simply "page break". This will probably be the one selected. Make sure there is a black dot in the circle next to 'page break' (do this by clicking on it if the circle is empty) and then click OK.
The "Undo" Arrow
This is a blessing for writers. If you make a mistake while editing, and end up losing a whole paragraph, page or section, simply click on the little blue curved arrow at the top of the screen. If one click doesn't get you back to where you were, keep clicking until you've undone the disaster. The arrow that curves to the left is 'undo'; the arrow that curves to the right is 'redo'.
(c) Copyright Marg McAlister
Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/
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