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Word Processors

A word processor isn't a typewriter. It's closer to being a typist—although, admittedly, not a particularly smart one. What you do is give it instructions; tell it how you want your document to look. Just give it the actual words of your document, but don't do the rest of the work for it.

You achieve mastery over the word processor mainly through styles. For each style, you can specify exactly how you want a paragraph of text presented: font, size, line spacing, indentation, space before and after. Then just let the machine get on with it. Don't help by using extra carriage returns to make space or repeatedly tapping the tab key or the space bar to line things up. This can have really horrible results if your margins are changed, or if you send your document to another computer. There's a clear concise article which explains how to set tabs so that your documents look professional rather than alarming or amusing.

I've heard people say that they don't have time to learn to use styles. It's not like learning a foreign language or the rules of cricket. It's all there in front of you when you open the program. There are built-in styles in every word processor. Until you know how to make your own styles, use those already there. That just means highlighting anything you want to be different, such as a heading, and finding an appropriate style in the style box on your toolbar. Don't be tempted to do it “the quick way” by using buttons to make things bold or italic or a different size. That'll just lead to your having to do the same thing over and over again. To find out how to make each style look the way you want it to, read this great article on styles.

You only hit the enter key at the end of a paragraph—or a heading. In the word processor's little world, anything that ends with a carriage return is a paragraph, and a heading is just another one with a special name.

If you hit the enter key a second time, you make an empty formatted paragraph, and it can create all sorts of havoc later on. If you turn your marks on, you can see that empty paragraph. If you don't know what I mean by "marks", read this article which explains non-printing characters.

Templates, Part One

TEMPLATES--BASIC ADVICE Click Other Things on the Table of Contents. This is short and to the point.


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