RE: Using Word for book publishing

Subject: RE: Using Word for book publishing
From: "Weissman, Jessica" <WeissmanJ -at- abacustech -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 09:18:48 -0400

Like Rick, I have produced many large documents for the Government using Word; I've also created substantial consumer-electronics user manuals and heavily formatted API / SDK documentation with Word. My former employer tried taking my Word doc for an engineering manual and passing it to an external guy to redo in InDesign. It ended up costing a lot of money, not looking much better, and tying us to an expensive and slow external resource every time we wanted to make changes. I don't blame that on InDesign, but on the business model. If we had internal staff with InDesign skills it would have been fine. But what we had was me.

My documents have not been quite as large as Rick's, though substantial and heavily formatted. Versions of Word later than 2003 work better with large documents. Computers with more memory and faster processors handle large documents better.

There are two requirements:

1) Learn Word completely. Like other tools, Word has its way of doing things. If you just bash away with manual formatting and so on, you will be frustrated. If you try to use such features as sections without truly understanding them, you will have bad surprise after bad surprise. Master the principles and you'll be fine. If you want to do columns and sidebars and such, Word can do it but you have to do it Word's way using the right features in the right ways.

2) Define and use Word styles, and set up the page layout by sections properly. Set up the leading you want in your paragraph styles. Create and use Word templates that include these settings.

There are also three areas where Word can break your heart no matter how well you know it:

1) Bulleted and outline numbered lists. Apply these formats manually and you will run into misery, especially in 2003 or earlier. Misapply the style-linked outline numbering even slightly, and you're in for misery. Follow Shauna's Kelly's instructions carefully, and you'll be fine. Look here for instructions: http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/numbering/outlinenumbering.html. You can also define your own using SEQ fields and they will be utterly solid. To do this, you have to understand Word fields and how SEQ works; it is not obvious.

2) Kerning and spacing within a paragraph. Word still does a second-rate job here. Make sure you specify the right printer, and you'll get better (but not perfect) results. Turn on automatic hyphenation, which gives Word more flexibility in line breaks.

3) Equations and chemical formulas. The equation editor in the newer versions of Word is better, but it can't match MathType or TeX or other dedicated tools. Relevant only if your document includes such things.

I am sure that layout programs like InDesign do a fine, fine job. When I try to use them as a novice without trying to understand the principles behind them, I make an ugly mess. Word is like that too. If you master it, you can get beautiful and predictable results. If you don't, you won't.

Get yourself a copy of Jack Lyons' Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, a copy of Guy Hart's Word Annoyances (if you're in 2003), and a copy of Word Hacks. You'll be amazed. And Jack says he is close to releasing another book. There are also good books on how to use Word that will give you a sound foundation in the basics.

- Jessica Weissman
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RE: Using Word for book publishing: From: Rick_Bishop

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