Style Abuse in Word (was: Real World Advantages of Office / Word 2007 and Windows 7)

Subject: Style Abuse in Word (was: Real World Advantages of Office / Word 2007 and Windows 7)
From: James Leatherwood <JLeatherwood -at- aflac -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 May 2012 08:23:53 -0400

William commented on the hash SMEs made of Word documents when they tried to "fix" problems that popped up.

I'm in the midst of a similar situation. The "Template" for our Specifications Requirements document is an old Word document, with sections "highlighted" with text background colors to explain what should go in each section. For now, some sections (e.g., Functional Decomposition) may have nested indents six layers deep. Random bits of text have unique fonts, sizes, or characteristics assigned - often, just the space between words remains altered when phrases on either side of the space are corrected.

I got a 70+ page specs doc two days before the formal peer review (23 SMEs in a room arguing about whether an issue was major or minor). Apparently, someone had turned off "Automatic Numbering" at some point and manually numbered the paragraphs ... and then turned it back on.

Correcting the doc was tedious, but not difficult. Correcting the template was less tedious. The truly difficult part is in teaching the SMEs how to use Word without screwing it up. And with one TW trying to watch 15 people write the docs, and as many as 50 people contributing to each one ...

I'm with Gene - give me raw text in a txt file, or plain text in Word, and let me mess it up fix it.
(And no, the authors don't want to write their own docs, but I just got here 4 months ago, and there are 50 years of history and habit to overcome. Many of the authors don't even know there is a Tech Writer on staff yet.)

James Leatherwood

-----Original Message-----
From: William Sherman [mailto:bsherman77 -at- embarqmail -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:51 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Real World Advantages of Office / Word 2007 and Windows 7

In one particular case I am thinking of, several software engineers wanted to keep the systems operation manual up to date as they felt the tech writers didn't understand the system software. Small wonder, when I got there, we were not allowed to turn it on or run it. I never got to see it in operation from start up, operation, and shut down. I got to see bits and pieces at various times because I was constantly going into the lab, but how was I to ever know how it work?

The problem is that on their computers, some had Word set to automatically update styles and formats. When they would manually number, they would affect the numbering in other sections. When they would bold a section for emphasis, they would impact other sections. There must have been 20 "Normal"
styles in that document, not to mention a dozen list styles and so on.
Headings? There wasn't H1, H2, H3, H4, there were a dozen. H1, H1bold, H1centered, H1italic,Heading 1, Heading1, Heading 1 Centered, etc.


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