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Monthly Archives: February 2012

My short cuts – headings (part 1)

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Today we’re going to look at how to set up headings in Word. I am breaking this series up into small pieces, so we will be learning about setting up numbered headings and creating contents pages too.

You will use this to save yourself time and ensure consistency when you’re setting up a large document with lots of headings and sub-headings. Imagine I’ve written a document about what I do in my business. I might write it up like this (you can imagine the one-word sentences are longer paragraphs if that helps!)

It’s not very easy to see what’s a heading and what’s the text, though. So I might think up my own styles of headings or sub-headings (yes, I might number them, too, but let’s keep it simple for now) and do this:

All well and good, but if this is a great big document: am I going to remember that I put main headings in bold, sub-headings in italics, etc., etc.? Or am I going to get in a mess and make my document confusing, so when you read it you don’t know which kind of section you’re in?

This is where the pre-set headings available in Word come into their own. If you’re using Word 2003, you’ll need to be using the formatting toolbar, then styles. If you’re using Word 2007 or Word 2010, then you’re on the Home tab of the ribbon at the top. Have a look: can you see some boxes labelled Heading 1, etc.?

I’ve circled Heading 1, and the arrow points at a scroll bar that will let you see a whole range of different things you can do.

Now you’ve located the headings buttons, you need to highlight the text you want to mark as Heading 1, and click on the Heading 1 button

And there it is, changed into blue (it doesn’t have to be blue, or that size; we’ll look at that in the next session) and every time you mark a heading as Heading 1, it will look like that.

Note: you don’t have to have all the text already written, highlight and click. You can also click Heading 1 (or whatever) when you want to type a new heading; the text on that line will adopt the Heading 1 format until you press return.

Time to do the Heading 2 level now. Oh – if you want to be clever, highlight each example of a heading you want to change to Heading 2, keeping the Control button pressed on your keyboard as you do so. This will highlight all the text you want to alter at once, saving a few clicks.

Anyway – highlight your Heading 2 text, all together or one at a time, and click on the Heading 2 button.

You’ll notice that Word has realised you’re setting levels of headings and has helpfully moved the button for Heading 3 up to the top row now, to save you looking for it (see the blue arrow). How useful!

Now, carry on highlighting and choosing heading levels until the whole document is done. You’ll end up with something like this:

Now, maybe this doesn’t look very different from what we started off with. But three things make this better than what we started with:

  1. You don’t have to remember what look you’re using for each level of heading; it does it all for you
  2. If you want to number your headings, that’s going to be really easy to do, AND if you change sections, swap them around, add or delete them, the numbering will change automatically
  3. You will be able to create an automatic Table of Contents

Next time, we’ll look at assigning numbers to all the different heading levels, and how that will help make your document easy to navigate …

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, please click on the “share” buttons below or tell your friends and colleagues about it! Thank you!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Be careful! Alot vs. a lot

I was reminded of this one again over the weekend: I see it used over and over again, and sometimes by people and in places that surprise me. I’m not even sure how it started, as it seems rather odd and not really explicable. With many of the words I’m including in this little Be Aware series, you can see how the error has come about, as in the thought processes. But this one seems to be just about missing a space while typing and doing nothing about it. Or maybe people DO think it’s correct in some way: if you use it (or used it until you read this post), please explain, because it does, genuinely, leave me baffled.

So, the word is alot. As in, “I did alot of homework today”; “Alot of people believe it is correct to miss out this space”, “I know alot of you do this, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct”.

And it really shouldn’t be. The phrase, and correct usage, is a lot. “I did a lot of homework today”. A being the indefinite article and lot referring to many. It’s exactly the same construction as a little, a few, a bunch, a collection: two separate words, with a space in between. And that’s how, really, it should stay.

There is a word, allot, which means to give or apportion something to someone – “I will allot you a corner to watch while you are marshalling for the marathon”, and although it’s brought us the good old allotment, I really don’t think this has crept in and influenced our word under discussion today.

I think it’s one you are just going to have to train yourself out of, if you do tend to use it – put that space in, please!

Update: a fab person has created an ALOT MONSTER on their blog! Thanks to the commenters who mentioned this: I think it deserves a place here in the post, too!

Note: I’ve been asked if “a lot of” is suitable for academic writing. I would suggest avoiding it and replacing it with “many” (“many people feel this is correct”) or “a great deal of” (“a great deal of research went into Dexter’s Theorem but it remains unproved”) or another similar phrase.

Be careful! is a series of posts about words that are misused commonly – but really shouldn’t be. It’s not a new variant of meaning, it’s an error that gets duplicated as people see the word misused and copy it.

Contact me via email or via my contact form.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Be careful, Errors, Language use, Writing

 

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Dick Margulis

Welcome to Saturday Business chat. If you’re reading these interviews in order of publication, we’re jumping from pets to books today – if you’ve found this through a search engine, welcome, and do take some time to check out the other people I’ve interviewed.

Dick Margulis, of Dick Margulis Creative Services, is a book designer from Connecticut. He’s an editor, too, and I came across him as part of a very useful and supportive editors’ community online, which I use for answers to tricky questions and general support and sharing. He then saw about my interviews on Facebook, so here we are, as part of the wonder that is social media. Book design is a bit of a mystery to me – I’m obviously called in at the earlier, manuscript, stage, or right at the end, proofreading to check the words on the page work and don’t look odd, the numbers are in the right place, etc. Dick does the bits in the middle that create that book as an object (material or digital) and make it an easy and enjoyable experience to read. Over the years he has, as he says, ‘undiversified’ and refined his offering to match the market and his talents – once again, we find flexibility as the key for making small business work.

So let’s find out about running your own book design business.

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Dick Margulis Creative Services. The now-defunct dot com I was working for downsized me in August of 2004. I was already telecommuting for them full-time, and they were nice enough to let me keep the computer, laser printer/scanner/fax machine, and expensive office chair they had furnished me with, as they knew they were not going to need them again. I decided I had spent enough of my life in cubicles and that I could do better on my own. So I hung out my shingle almost immediately.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I had gradually come to the understanding that I was never going to be a good fit as a corporate employee. In that realm, I was a slow learner, and it took me some decades to realize that it’s the nature of corporations, rather than the luck of which particular company I happened to land in, that I’m incompatible with. By 2004, the Internet was sufficiently ubiquitous and computing power was cheap enough that I could go into business for myself without a lot of capital or risk.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

When I was still in elementary school and was home sick in bed (probably with nothing more than a head cold), a visiting friend of my parents brought me a toy printing press with rubber type (you can see pictures on eBay). I became fixated on printing and on typography. I started setting metal types in ninth grade and coincidentally had my first editing gig then too, on the junior high newspaper. I’ve always loved typography and book design and have studied it for decades as well as practicing it off and on in various paid and unpaid positions. Same with editing. I’ve made design and editing part of every job I’ve had, even if it wasn’t in the job description, and people have always responded positively to my work.

When I started the business, I had current experience in technical writing, in marketing communication, and in web design too, and I offered (and still offer) an array of communications services to businesses. But my first love is book production, and that soon became my main focus.

Had you run your own business before?

Yes. My first wife and I had a retail and wholesale herb business that I managed (rather badly from a business standpoint) for nine years before we laid it down, but at least I learned from my mistakes.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

The reason I was telecommuting was that, while living and working in Massachusetts, I had met someone online who lived a couple hours away in Connecticut, through an online dating site (we’ve been delightedly married since 2005; life is good). When my lease in Massachusetts was up, I moved to live with her in New Haven, announcing to the company that I was going to telecommute. That was in April. By August, when the third round of layoffs came around, I was not shocked to be let go. The company gave me a little severance money and access to an outplacement counseling service (which provided a database of local firms that I made good use of to pitch my services). Then I collected unemployment benefits while I went through the motions of looking for salaried positions, getting my business together in the meantime.

So I had a roof over my head, unemployment benefits to help with expenses, and skills. I quickly joined several online networks, updated skills as needed, and started pitching. Business was a trickle at first, but I wasn’t in danger of being thrown out on the street. I reported all freelance income to the unemployment folks, and they were supportive of my starting a business. So benefits continued until they timed out after a year. That gave me a window in which to build the business. I invested quite a bit at first in Google AdWords to get the word out there, and that paid off. I stopped that after a couple of years and have spent virtually nothing on advertising since then.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

I was well prepared before I started. The one major lesson I learned on the job is that no matter how desperate you are for work, if a prospective client makes your teeth itch, just say no. Trust your instincts, because if you engage with that person, you will regret it. I can still be conned occasionally, but I’m a lot better at qualifying customers than I was when I started out.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Relax. It will be fine.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Offhand, I can’t think of anything.

What are you glad you did?

I’m glad that I made the decision to go into business instead of continuing to search for cubicle jobs. It’s truly the best thing I ever did for my physical health, because it completely eliminated all the psychic stresses of reporting to a boss. My heart is healthier. My back is healthier. My knees are a little creaky, but otherwise I feel like a kid again.

What’s your top business tip?

Don’t search for a clever name for your business. What you’re selling is yourself. My business name is Dick Margulis Creative Services. It says who I am and what I offer. People can and do find me quite easily. Colleagues on mailing lists of other freelance editors and designers are filled with imaginative, clever, sometimes humorous business names, but I have a hard time remembering which business name goes with which person. Building a brand, in the freelance world, means associating your own name with a reputation for excellence in what you do. It doesn’t mean creating a swoosh to plaster on shoes, clothing, and billboards. Keep it simple.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

I’ve grown and undiversified, focusing more and more on book production. I’ve dropped web design almost completely, and only rarely does a business engage me for technical or business writing. But I’ve begun speaking to groups about the publishing business, and I’ve kept up with and participated in developments in e-books, self-publishing, and book marketing.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I’m overflowing my office space, and we recently cleared out and cleaned up the basement. I think in a year’s time I may have a spacious office downstairs. One with lots of bookshelves and filing cabinets. That’s one thing about this business: it generates a lot of paper that I have to hang onto.

Oh, how I identify with those customers that make your teeth itch when you first communicate with them: that’s one of the things I’ve learned, too. I look forward to hearing about Dick’s lovely new, spacious office in the basement next year. And did we all have one of those little rubber printing presses? Or is that just me? Find out what happened next in Dick’s 2013 interview!

Dick Margulis Creative Services is based in New Haven, Connecticut; you can find out more at www.dmargulis.com and Dick also has a blog. You can  email him or call (US) on (203) 389-4413.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat

 

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Perquisite or prerequisite?

I’m going to be honest here. I have only ever seen prerequisite written perquisite when the writer clearly meant the former. And I didn’t actually know what a perquisite was until I looked it up when I sat down to write this post. But just in case you ever need to know … here you go!

A prerequisite, which is the word I really feel most people will be looking for and using out of this pair, is a thing which is required or necessary as a prior condition to something else. So a prerequisite for working as a French teacher is the ability to speak French.  A prerequisite for being a proofreader is being able to spell. Oh, and it’s one word: no hyphen.

A perquisite, it turns out, is a special right or privilege that you enjoy as a result of  your position.  I would say a perquisite of being a freelancer is the ability to wear pyjamas all day, but I don’t think that’s what it’s really about: it’ll be something to do with those special rights to walk your sheep over London Bridge or some such. If anyone reading this actually HAS a perquisite, I’d love to know!

Stop press: My clever friend Jen pointed out – rightly – that the word perk comes from perquisite. A perk is a benefit to which one is entitled to as an employee (or shareholder) of a company and, by extension, a benefit or advantage that comes from a particular situation. I still miss my borrowing perks from when I worked at the library. Interestingly, the dictionary says that this is an abbreviation dating from the 19th century. Thanks, Jen!

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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My short cuts – top and bottom margins

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

I have already published instructions on how to manipulate your left and right margins, but I’ve noticed some search engine searches have come through to Libro looking for information on top and bottom margins, so here are a few words about them.

First of all, make sure you can see your rulers! If you can’t see what I’m pointing to in the screenshots, go to this post and follow the instructions on making your rulers visible. I’ll wait here while you do that …

OK, all set, and rulers visible?

So, sometimes we might want to make the area we can use on the page a bit bigger. Classic reasons include wanting to fit a whole document on one or two pages, for example if you are making up a poster and you want to use the largest print area possible. Within reason, you can extend the upper and lower margins of your text to fit in a few more words.

Let’s have a look at these top and bottom margins. Look over to the left-hand ruler in your document. You should see this, which you will notice looks very similar to your top ruler:

You will notice that the white section indicates the area where you can type: where the space for text starts at the top (above) and where it finishes at the bottom:

Hover your cursor over the division between blue and white and you’ll see a slider and an arrow indicating that you can move them up and down. In this example, I’ve moved the top margin down – see how the first line of text has followed it down the page …

But of course you can also move it up if you want more room to type.

Do note, that you can’t move it infinitely and eventually, when you go to print, you will get an error message telling you that you have gone outside the print margins. So be careful, but within reason this will allow you to create that little bit more space on your page.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

If you have enjoyed this post and /or found it useful, please click the share buttons below or comment!

Find all the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Perspective or prospective?

Today’s troublesome pair is perspective and prospective. Why do I think these two get mixed up? Because they are longish words that are spelled very similarly!

The main meaning of perspective is the art of representing three-dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface to give an impression of objects’ relative distance and size (a classic example of this is painting a picture of a tiled floor; an example of using this for amusing means is found when you take a photo that you have the Pyramids in your hand, or similar) and by extension it means the appearance of objects with regard to their relative position and distance from the person viewing them. Other meanings, which you can see are linked to this idea, include a particular way of viewing things (“from the rioters’ perspective, they had every right to take the trainers”), and an understanding of the relative importance of things (“you need to keep a sense of perspective about what he has done: stealing a tube of Polos is not as bad as mass murder”).

Prospective, more simply, means likely or expected to happen or be in the future – “I’d like to welcome my prospective son-in-law into the family – he will marry my daughter in September”; “with my prospective earnings for 2012, I will be able to retire in 2050″.

“From Mrs Brown’s perspective, having a prospective neighbour who was good at picking locks was a godsend, as she was always losing her front door key.”

So the meanings should not be that easily mixed up; it just requires a moment of pause, perhaps, before writing down the particular word you choose.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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Gillian Linnell

Welcome to Saturday Business chat, and we are all about pets today, talking to Gillian Linnell of the Oldham-based company, GGL Pet Supplies, another new business which opened its doors in 2011 and is not yet a year old. Gillian took a route into business ownership that we’ve not seen before in these interviews, going on an entrepreneurship college course – it just shows the variety of routes we take into our lives as business owners. Like me, to an extent, Gillian has not ended up doing quite what she imagined; having started out in pet gift baskets, she now finds most of her business coming from a different, but related area. It’s so important to be flexible like this, and to both see and take up alternative opportunities as they present themselves, rather than sticking to a fixed idea of what you do. I’m sure flexibility is one of the most important promoters of success – look at Richard Branson, starting a record label and ending up with an airline!

Gillian sensibly took on a part time job while launching her business, making sure she could support herself and keep things going while she established GGL Pet Supplies – hard work, but worth it, I think, for the peace of mind.

So, let’s meet Gillian!

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called GGL Pet Supplies, and I set it up in May 2011.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Mom has advanced Parkinson’s Disease and working full time was taking its toll on me, advancement within the corporate company I was working at was not looking possible and I knew I was capable of much better things.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I have always wanted to work with animals and decided to enrol at college on an entrepreneur course simply making and selling pet gift hampers.  I soon realised that this idea was not going to pay the bills so it quickly changed to a full blown pet store, also offering pet sitting and dog walking services.

Had you run your own business before?

No.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

I took a part time job in a bar to help pay the bills whilst the company started to make money.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Don’t spend money on marketing companies which offer Google front page search results when you can do it yourself!

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Be confident, trust and believe in yourself, you are unique, and don’t believe everything cold callers say on the phone!

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Not spent a heapload of money on advertising in the wrong places!

What are you glad you did?

Started the pet sitting/dog walking services as this was purely an afterthought, yet it is what is currently booming.

What’s your top business tip?

Stay focused, be persistent, believe. Do not ever give up, but be willing to adapt and change when opportunities arise.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

The pet supplies is still an ongoing project that I am not really having much luck with, but the pet sitting and dog walking side is booming: I even do horses now. I am pushing the supplies side of things persistently: as I am still in the first year of business, I remain optimistic.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I would like to be selling the supplies to local people and pet sitting clients and to have a brand and reputation which is very well known and recognised in the local community. Eventually I would like to employ staff and have a  warehouse full of pickers and packers. This is just one ambition – I have a handful of different directions which the company can take.

Reading between the lines here, it looks like Gillian has learned from any early mistakes she made with advertising and marketing – which are always tricky, and there are an awful lot of very persuasive people out there selling such services. She is to be applauded for her positive attitude and perseverance, and I really look forward to hearing about the new directions the business takes in the next year!

You can find out more about Gillian and GGL at www.gglpetsupplies.com and you can  email her or call her on 07717 216 100.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat

 

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