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Archive for the ‘Formatting’ Category

Confession: I completely forgot how to do this. Not because it’s hard to do, it’s actually surprisingly easy, but because it’s a thing I seldom need to do.

I added a page to my WordPress blog for my short story Dark Shadows coming October 30th in Dragon Soul Press’s anthology All Dark Places 3. Then I tried to add the page to the dropdown list in the “Published Books” page tab in the menu at the top of my blog and discovered I had no idea how to do it.

I wasted some time mucking about trying to figure it out, then the old tried and true random trying of things, and rediscovered again how easy it actually is if you know what to do. I have the bad habit of trying all the wrong things first before trying the right things.

I wanted to add the dropdown option to click and go to the “All Dark Places 3” page I created in this “Published Books” menu item.

First, I had to get to the screen that allows you to edit the menus:

In your left menu click on “Appearance”, then on “Menus”.

This new menu (below) opens:

This is the screen if you are in ‘edit in live preview’. It still works basically the same way:

Now you are in here:

  • Under “Pages” drag down the scroll bar to the page you want to add, check it off, and click “Add to Menu.
  • The page shows up here. Just click and drag the block to spot in the order you want it. Flush left will make it a main menu item. Offset to the right will make it a sub-menu item under the other item. As you see here below under (2) “All Dark Places 3 anthology” is a sub-menu below “Published Books”.

Making it look like this on the main blog page. So when you hover over the menu item “Published Books” all those showing below it show up on the screen to click to go to those pages:

This is the screen if you are in ‘edit in live preview’. It still works basically the same way:

Testing your menu tabs:

This is where I point out the magic of the Ctrl-Shift, Ctrl-Alt, Shift-‘other key’, and such commands.

It’s like when you call the customer service of a company and are faced with an endlessly running one-sided robot dialogue of menu items, none of which is simply “speak to a real live person”, when all you want to do is speak to a real live person. Zero (0) is the magic key they don’t list in their verbose-overloaded menu that generally bypasses the whole thing to ring the phone on a living person’s desk. Aka about a hundred pressed button choices later, the option to “speak to a representative”.

If you want to view these menu tabs to test them; from the window viewing your WordPress blog as a visitor:

”Ctrl” + tab:  ”Ctrl” plus click on the tab opens the tab to view it as a visitor, opening and adding the page to the open page tabs on your browser.

”Shift” + tab:  ”Shift” plus click on the tab opens the tab to view it as a visitor, opening the page in a new browser window.

Note:    If you are new to WordPress and don’t know this, click your blog name with the world next to it in your left menu to view the blog as a visitor sees it.

Keep writing my friends.

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This problem has driven me to distraction with frustration ever since I upgraded to my (now not so new and already partially broken ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  ) new laptop.

I use spreadsheets a lot and for multiple purposes. I’m also not a super technology-type person.

Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

My issue boils down to learned behavior. You know, when you do something so much that it’s an automatic reflex.

Typing is a learned behavior once you really know how to type. You know what words and numbers you want and your fingers do it without you having to consciously focus on them.

On my day job, in every program we use including Excel, it’s the same date format: month day year. All day, every day, Monday to Friday. Month day year. Month day year. Month day year. An endless stream of typing month day year in the same format: 5/27/21

My previous laptop was the same: month day year.

I’m so used to it that it’s an actual burden to have to stop and think to type anything other than month day year. It’s the same typing format always and it automatically translates to show the date in any form you formatted it to, whether it’s the short numerical form (8/15/21), short date form (Aug 15/21), or long formal date form (August 15, 2021). You can even set it to show day month year or any other order after you type 8/15/21.

  • 5/27/21
  • 6/30/21
  • 3/18/21
  • 2/28/21
  • 8/15/21
  • 5/5/21
  • 5/8/21

    .

You get the idea. Consistency is golden. Your dates are always correct when you enter them consistently, in my case month day year. You don’t have to stop and question, or go back and verify anywhere, was that May 8 or August 5th.

     .

     .

Why oh why did Excel suddenly demand a new date format?

The issue and where the frustration lays is that when I reinstalled Microsoft Office on the new laptop, it flat out refused to use the ‘month day year’ date format.

I periodically tried repeatedly to reset the date format in Excel to take month day year. But no, it persisted in only accepting day month year. My dates kept coming up wrong and I ended up taking the more lengthy process of entering them as text instead of dates: ‘May 8/21 instead of 5/8/21.

I periodically tried researching how to fix it with no luck finding any answers.

Yeah, it sounds like a minor issue. But entering dates as text renders all formulas using those date boxes unusable.

    .

I like formulas. They make life easier.

For example, if I submit to a publisher who does not respond unless the story is accepted, but instead tells you to assume you’ve been rejected if you don’t hear from them in 75 days.

If I enter the date I submitted as May 8/21 text, I have to count 75 days on the calendar to find the date I should assume they rejected my story.

On the other hand, let’s say in the spreadsheet box K11 I entered the date I submitted my story properly (5/8/21), Excel now sees it as a readable date number. In box M11 where I want the assumed rejection date of 75 days after May 8th, I add the very simple formula =K11+75 and Excel automatically finds that rejection date (Jul 22/21) for me in the fraction of seconds it took me to type =K11+75 (in this case actually =<arrow over two boxes>+75, which is even faster).

With the ability to use formulas that use date boxes, you can also create formulas that will average how long a particular publisher you submit to frequently takes to respond, the longest time it took them to respond, or the same for all publishers’ responses.

    .

For me, not being able to use formulas on Excel boxes with dates is the equivalent to the dating dealbreaker. It’s just a big fat NO.

     .

The Solution to the Excel Date Entry Format

There is absolutely nowhere in Excel or any Microsoft Office program that allows you to change your date format to determine whether you should enter mm/dd/yy, dd/mm/yy, yy/mm/dd, or any other variation of 5/15/21.

The key date format is in your operating system. Windows, for example. That is where you need to fix it.

Microsoft Office pulls the date format it uses from your operating system.

Buggers.

I’m not familiar with Apple, so if you have a similar issue with a program I you can maybe try a similar fix, but for Windows here is where you need to fix it:

*What you see depends on what version of Windows you are running.

  1. Open your Control Panel (Settings).
  2. Click on Clock, Language, and Region (Time & Language).
  3. Click on Change date, time, or numbers formats  (Date, Time, & Regional formatting – scroll down to it).
  4. Under the Formats tab (scroll down to Related Settings), click on Additional settings (Additional, Date, Time & Regional Settings).
  5. Click on Time (Region: Change date, time, or number formats).

Make your changes here and click Apply and OK:

   .

You should see the little clock in your computer taskbar change to show your new date format if you changed it, for example, from day month year to month day year.

   .

   .

I’m still working on fixing the why my Microsoft Word documents are all such smaller print on my laptop screen now at 100% scale. My eyes are not going to get any younger!

Changing the Windows screen resolution settings just makes everything in every app and on the Windows desktop …

SUPER BIG!

Or small like Word. It also completely messes up some programs that require a specific screen size/resolution to work properly.

And yet, I’ve downloaded word templates that are normal sized on my screen.

That’s a problem for another day.

   .

Keep writing my friends.

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Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had to *fix* the formatting on a document that made me cringe, usually a work manual, formatted by a predecessor.

 

When you are formatting a book manuscript, simplicity and consistency are your best friends. Especially if you will be still writing and editing it. I recommend starting with the use of proper formatting. It will save you a lot of time later. And, if you are paying someone to format your completed manuscript, it will save them a lot of time and you a lot of money. The more time it takes them to format it, the more they will charge you. If you already started or finished the manuscript, you can still fix it.

 

First, work with only one manuscript. Don’t have one for each eBook and print version. You can do easy fixes to format for them for each later and do not want to have to do every edit fix on every manuscript copy.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Let’s start with a few basic ‘Do Not’s. All instructions are based on using Microsoft Word because that’s what I know how to use.

 

Spaces instead of tabs. Do you hit the space bar five times instead of using a tab to indent? Don’t do this. If you are doing this, I want you to go into your ‘Home’ tab at the top left of your Word document. Click ‘Replace’ in the top right. In the ‘Find what’ box type your five spaces. The ‘Replace With’ box should be empty. Click the ‘Replace All’ button. If it asks you if you are sure you want to replace all, yes you are sure.

 

Tab key to indent sentences. Don’t do this either. Especially if you plan to later format this manuscript for eBook.  Most eBook formatting conversions do not like tabs and it could look ugly in the book on the eReader. Do the same thing you did to remove all those unwanted spaces, only with your cursor in the ‘Find what’ box (after deleting those spaces), click ‘More’ and then ‘Special’. Select ‘Tab Character’. ‘Find what’ will fill in this: ^t. Leave ‘Replace with’ blank and click ‘Replace All’. If you used double or triple tabs to move things, you will need to run this replace all multiple times.

 

Extra line spaces at the top of the page. Maybe you want your chapter header to not cling to the top of the page. Print books often have them a few lines down. If you added extra ‘Return’ (Enter) blank lines at the top of your page to push your text down, this will be a problem converting to eBook later. Electronic book readers hate this. It looks weird and you might end up with random blank pages in the eBook. Go ahead and remove all of those the same way you did the tabs, using the replace all special multiple ‘Return’ characters with nothing. NOTE: don’t do this with only a single paragraph character in the ‘Find what’ box. It will remove all your paragraph returns for every paragraph. The ‘Undo’ button is magical if you accidentally do this.

 

Hyphenating non-hyphenated words. You wanted it to look professional with the too long words breaking at the right margin and carrying down to the next line with a hyphenation word break. So, you manually hit the hyphen and enter throughout your manuscript. You don’t want this. This is the thing that dwells in a manuscript formatter’s darkest nightmares. It’s old school from the days of manual typewriters before computers were a thing. Today’s word processors adjust spacing to accommodate the text without this, and, forcing end of line hyphenations is messy and not something you want to have to go line by line fixing throughout and entire manuscript. Regardless of manuscript perfection, if your document is not the right trim size for the published book, this will have to be fixed through the entire text.

 

Hard returns. It’s the difference of hitting the Return (Enter) key and holding down Shift button while hitting Return. They can cause issues with formatting, particularly if you are using justification and in some eBook conversions. Behind the formatting they look like this:

Return (Enter): ¶

Shift+Return: 8

 

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

 

 

Now, what should you do?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Formatting With Style. In other words, using Microsoft Word’s ‘Styles’. This is a cleaner and more reliable way of formatting your manuscript, and making global format changes to it.

 

If you are writing multiple books, inevitably you will have to reformat an entire book. Every chapter, paragraph, and line. Maybe you need to change the font type or size, or the size of the indented paragraphs. What you want is the ability to do a mass manuscript reformat with minimal effort, which means minimal errors. Ideally, you will be doing this anyway to convert your print book manuscript to eBook format – after the print book manuscript is perfected in writing, editing, proofing, and formatting, and is ready to publish. For this, you want to use Word’s ‘Styles’ to essentially hard code the typeset styles into your manuscript.

 

You are also less likely to run into strange formatting occurrences if you format using Styles instead of hitting the formatting buttons at the top of the ‘Home’ tab group.

 

Using Word’s ‘Styles’, you will want to set up a few basic styles for each section of your manuscript: interior chapter first paragraph justified, and rest of the chapter text first line indent; chapter headers, front matter centered, and title page.

 

I’ll list some basic formatting below. First, take a look inside some books produced by the big publishers at how they do it. In particular, look at books in the same genre as yours.

 

 

Chapter formatting. The whole chapter can be formatted in two blocks: the first paragraph, and the rest.

 

To create a new ‘Style’, select your ‘Home’ tab in the top left of your Word document. Then click the little downward angled arrow in the ‘Styles’. Or hold down Alt + Ctrl + Shift + S buttons.

 

Select the ‘A+’ (new style) button. Set your font type, size, justification, and other settings here. You want it justified and to use a font type and size common with printed books of your genre. Since you are initially formatting for a printed book you want to choose a very dark black font color, not automatic. (Note: you need automatic for eBook). If ‘automatically update’ is checked off, all revisions to one paragraph formatted to this style will automatically change all paragraphs in the same style in the manuscript.

 

Be sure to name your new styles something you will remember what they are for, like ‘Chapter First Paragraph’. You will need to make a few new styles.

 

Select ‘Format’, then ‘Paragraph’, and ‘Indents and Spacing’.

 

 

The first paragraph is generally justified across the page with neat margins and no first line indent, but not always, because there are no hard written rules in publishing. There is often a slightly wider line space after the end of the first paragraph to set it apart from the rest of the chapter. Again, there is no hard rule that it has to be this way. I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Justified

Outline level: body

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 0 pt

Spacing – After: 8 pt

Sine spacing: Single

 

 

The rest of the chapter paragraphs will take a minor tweak to the settings when you create a new style for them. Here, I removed the space after the paragraphs. Leaving it would spread your manuscript over too many pages. I also added an automatic first line indent. This is what I changed:

 

Special: First Line      By: 0.2”

Spacing – After: 0 pt

 

 

The chapter header style can be set up with a larger font size, centered, and changing the spacing before and after. Adjust the spacing before and after to set the chapter header where you want it. Do not use added blank lines in the document (That can mess up your eBook formatting later). I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Centered

Outline level: Level 2 *

* if you are using parts as well as chapters, each ‘Part’ would be level 1 and the chapters level 2

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 42 pt

Spacing – After: 40 pt

Sine spacing: Single

* Outline level is an extremely useful Word tool. Level 1 is the top level, then 2, 3, etc; and each number layers the levels down. It can help you navigate to a particular chapter (select ‘View’ at the top and check off ‘Navigation Pane’ to open a click-and-go table of contents on the side). It can aid creating an auto-created and updated table of contents in your front matter. And, you can move and rearrange entire sections (parts or chapters) by clicking and dragging them in the navigation pane on the left.

 

 

Front and back matter. The fewer styles used, the cleaner your manuscript looks, but some front matter is typically centered and some isn’t. Your title page, for example, may have a larger font than anywhere else, be centered, and spaced lower on the page, so will probably have its own ‘Style’. The title page is also probably the only place you might want to use a different font type. Beyond this, I use the first chapter paragraph justified style for justified text like the copyright ‘do not copy this’ blurb. I have a similar style set with the text centered instead of justified for the rest of the copyright information, and if I want a centered spacer (***) between scenes in a chapter. The about author and other back matter blurbs, I treat like another chapter.

 

 

Headers and footers should be used for the page numbers at the bottom and the alternating book title and author name at the top. Use the same font as the book text. Insert a section break before chapter/part 1 to separate the front matter from the rest to not have the headers and footers appear in the front matter. When you create your headers and footers in page one of the first chapter check off ‘different from previous section’, and check off ‘different odd/even pages’ in the header to have your name on one side and the book title on the other.

 

 

Editing Styles is not hard. Open the Styles panel. Select the paragraph text you want to edit. In the Styles box it should highlight the selected style. Hover over the Paragraph mark next to it and it becomes a downward triangle. Click it. Let’s say I want to change all ‘Normal’ text to my ‘Paragraph text’ style. I click ‘Select all’ under the normal style and wait for it to select all. It can take a while if there is a lot. Then click the ‘Paragraph text’ style. It should change all selected text to that style.

 

The ‘Modify’ button opens up the panel to modify the style if you want to tweak your style. If ‘Automatically update’ is checked off, it will automatically change all text in the document with that text style.

 

 

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

 

Formatting Styles for eBooks later will be simple if you followed these styles consistently. First, re-save the document to be safe. Remove all headers and footers. They don’t work in eBooks. Change your entire document page size to 8.5” x 11” (letter) with 1 inch margins all around.

 

 

 

Change all styles to:

– Remove the before and after paragraph spaces. At least minimize it to no more than 12 pt. in chapter headers and the title page.

– All fonts should be Times New Roman 12 point. You can get away with the title page and chapter headers being a slightly larger font size.

– All font color MUST be ‘Automatic’.

 

The other formatting fixes to convert to eBook are a little more work. They are finicky creatures, those eBook readers.

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