Tech writer list of #10s

Subject: Tech writer list of #10s
From: "Bergen, Jane" <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 1997 17:03:51 -0500

Patty Ewey wrote:

>I know from skimming the list that Word can be awful ... but what are
>best ways to minimize the problems? (Staying away from the Master
>document? Avoiding the Page layout view?) I'll have the opportunity
>set up the templates and such anyway that I like, and I'd like to do
>with as little fuss and as little disaster potential as possible.


Good idea to ward off the evil Word spirits before they take over your
docs! Actually, I use Word for everything I do and have very few
problems. But here is my list... in no particular order. Although this
applies mostly to Word, it may also be helpful for anyone using any
other software program for tech writing.

#1 Disable (uncheck) fast saves. This is in your preferences dialog on
the Save tab. The fast save has long been discussed as a real problem.
It will eventually corrupt your document, I promise.

#2 Forget about trying the Master Document. It doesn't work period.

#3 Save early. Save often. Don't depend (but do use) the autosave.
Never, ever walk away from your computer without saving your document
first. Never print without saving first. I cried crocodile tears once
when a document I'd worked on for 3.5 hours went into la-la land when
someone tripped over the power cord. It was sheer stupidity on my part.
I didn't even have the autosave on, for some reason.

#4 Understand how Word works. All the formatting for a paragraph is in
the paragraph mark. All the formatting and header information (and much
more) for the document is in the last paragraph mark in the document.
Understanding this system will unlock the secrets of the
universe....well, almost. For this reason, I work EXCLUSIVELY in Page
Layout (yes, that's not a typo) with all my paragraph marks and tabs
visible. It's tough to get used to, but will save you work in the long
run. With everything visible, you won't accidently delete paragraph
marks when cutting and pasting. I never ever include that last paragraph
mark when pasting to a new doc either. Yikes!

#5 I leave both horizontal and vertical rulers up ALL the time. It makes
my screen shot resizing much more consistent.

#6 Set up lots of shortcut keys for often-used styles. For example, all
my headings are Alt + 1 for Heading 1, Alt + 2 for Heading 2, and so on.
My Body Text is Alt + T. My bullet lists are Alt + B. This little tip
can save you a lot of time. You do use STYLES, right?!?!?

#7 My toolbar is full of icons that represent little simple macros (made
with the Record feature) for often-used actions, such as "Keep with
Next" or Insert>Break>Next Page. I also set up a table style using the
Record Macro and put it on my toolbar.

#8 Leave the indexing as one of the last things you do. It's so easy,
when you're moving things around or deleting big lumps of text, to upset
the apple cart by leaving out hidden text.

#9 Don't base a document on the Normal template. Create your own
template (such as "publications," "engineering specs," or "release
notes") and use those. It gives you more flexibility and you can build
in your own set of styles for each type of document.

#10 CLOSE each document before you EXIT. That is just a little safety
mechanism. I close each document separately....with great thought....
before I click EXIT. I sleep better at night that way.

and for a bonus, here's #11

#11 If you should ever, perish the thought, have to restore a document,
always SAVE AS with a new name, rather than overwrite the old. Then you
can compare the two to make sure which is which and what you're doing.
This is another one of those "been there, done that" maxims.

Hope that helps you or someone else.

Good luck,

Jane Bergen, Technical Writer,
AnswerSoft, Inc. Richardson, TX
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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