Why document setup in Microsoft Word matters to an editor

Microsoft Word is the default word processing software for editors of all types of publications. Even if your graphic designer insists on producing the final document in InDesign or some other desktop publishing software, Word is still the default writing tool across the industry. Therefore, editors must be able to work quickly and efficiently in Word.

Ninety per cent of my work is writing, editing, proofing and producing major documents for construction and engineering companies. For the last seven years, I have recommended to clients that documents are started with a Microsoft Word template that has been well set up.

Some reasons why a well set up Word template is important to an editor are:

  • Document structure – One of the first editing steps is to check the document structure. Applying styles to headings allows an editor to easily and quickly see the document structure by producing a table of contents or using the navigation pane in Word.
  • Navigating around the document – Clicking the appropriate heading in the navigation pane or table of contents will take you to the right place in the document. If you have a large document, this can save a lot of time scrolling looking for the right section, particularly if the document needs restructuring.
  • Dynamic references – Using the built-in formatting styles allows dynamic references to headings, figures and tables. If a new heading, figure or table is inserted, all the references can be easily and quickly updated.
  • Proofing – Setting the correct language helps content providers and subject matter experts get their spelling right – before it gets to the editor.
  • Special characteristics – Word applies special characteristics to some built-in styles that an editor may want to use. Many of these special characteristics can be manually applied to custom styles, but this usually requires more advanced knowledge of Word than simply using the in-built styles.
  • Speed – An editor can work faster and more accurately in a well-formatted document.

For the person doing the document formatting (which can also be a by-product of the editing process), a well set up Word document also assists with:

  • Applying formatting – Applying formatting styles is easy and fast when you are selecting from 15 styles, not hundreds. Shortcut keys can often be used to apply formatting with only a couple of keystrokes.
  • Consistent formatting – Applying styles consistently throughout a document reduces the chance of formatting errors.
  • Modifying formatting – When styles have been applied consistently, it is easy to modify fonts throughout a document by changing the underlying style rather than manually changing the format for every paragraph or heading.
  • Tables – Setting up table styles allows consistent formatting of tables throughout a document.
  • Reduces the chance of corruption – Correctly set up and applied styles reduce the chance of a document generating formatting errors (usually just before you are about to print on a tight deadline!). If a document does corrupt, then it is also easier and faster to fix.
  • Importing and exporting styles – Word can import styles from other documents allowing consistent formatting across multiple documents. (Word also has a terrible habit of importing styles from text copied from other documents – there are ways to mitigate this in a well set up document).

Setting up Word documents properly is fast and efficient when compared to the alternatives. Taking a little time to do this can provide a massive time saving for the editor and other people working with the document. Would you prefer your editor to be endlessly scrolling through a document looking for sections or styles, or focussing on the task of editing the content?

So what makes a well set up Microsoft Word document? On the surface, it is quite simple:

  • Clean styles palette – Microsoft Word has a bad habit of collecting all the styles from text copied and pasted into the document. With files that have been reused many times, this can result in hundreds of unused styles in a document! Delete all the unused styles.
  • Basic styles palette – Set up just the styles that you need for your document and use the built-in styles where possible.
  • Bullet points – Set up bullet point styles so that they are stable (Word is notorious for moving the bullet point indents if the styles are set up incorrectly).
  • Language – Apply the correct dictionary language to the Normal style (which, if set up correctly, will also apply to the other styles).
  • Table styles – If using tables, set up table styles to suit your document.

The above is not difficult, but setting up documents well does require some knowledge of Word. I have a Microsoft Word document with a clean styles palette, hierarchy of headings and basic formatting that I can provide free of charge to clients as a starting point for developing document templates. I am happy to give it to clients because it provides many benefits in the sometimes stressful environment of meeting a submission deadline.

Annual leave — 16 December 2013 to 20 December 2013

I will be on annual leave from Monday, 16 December 2013 to 20 December 2013 inclusive.

If your enquiry is urgent, please leave a message on my mobile phone (0421 408 701) and I will return your call. I will also periodically be checking my e-mails during this time.

Regards

Rohan Exton
Managing Director

Mobile: 0421 408 701
E-mail: rohan@businesspr.com.au
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/rohanexton

Annual leave — 17 December 2012 to 11 January 2013

I will be on annual leave from Monday, 17 December 2012 to 11 January 2013 inclusive.

If your enquiry is urgent, please leave a message on my mobile phone (0421 408 701) and I will return your call. I will also periodically be checking my e-mails during this time.

Regards

Rohan Exton
Managing Director

Mobile: 0421 408 701
E-mail: rohan@businesspr.com.au
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/rohanexton

Business PR Group web site now responsive

The trend in web sites, specifically those based on the WordPress platform, is to use responsive web designs.

Responsive web sites are those that recognise the device being used to browse the web site. For example, if a user clicks in to a responsive web site from their desktop PC, they will see the full width web site. If that user were to click in using their smart phone or a tablet, then the web site would respond by resizing to suit the smaller screen sizes. The page width will be smaller and the various page elements will be stacked vertically.

Business Public Relations Group is now using a responsive design — the ever faithful WordPress default theme, which is currently Twenty Twelve. Browse this web site on your desk top PC and your smart phone to see how a responsive web design modifies the browser’s experience. Try it.

Around one third of visits to my web sites are now being made using smart phones and tablets, so it is important to use web sites that display properly on these devices.

Regards

Rohan Exton
Managing Director

Blogging on Bloke’s Post

I have been on the internet since around 1995. That was a time of pioneering internet activity, and I was part of it. As a public relations writer and a long-term internet user, it was logical that I would also experiment with blogging.

My personal blog started off in 2007 as a rant about anything I wanted. Given my professional work as a communications consultant, I published the blog anonymously — Rant, Rex.

As my blog evolved from a rant about anything I wanted, into a more informative lifestyle ezine with an eclectic mix of how-to articles, product and service reviews, and commentary on current affairs, I decided it was time to change the name of my blog. After extensive domain name research, Bloke’s Post is the new name. Both domains point to the same set of web pages.

Please do not expect boring professional business writing if you visit these pages. The pages explore many oddball topics, but surprisingly topics that people from all over the world regularly search for.

Regards

Rohan Exton
Managing Director

businesspr.com.au moving to new server

I am in the process of moving my businesspr.com.au domain name to another web hosting server. There will possibly be some interruption of service as the new server location is propagated.

If you are having difficulty emailing me or viewing the web site, please use the email address rohan@businesspr.com.au or web site businesspr.com.au.

Update: This has now been completed.

Regards

Rohan Exton
Managing Director

Mobile: 0421 408 701
E-mail: rohan@businesspr.com.au
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/rohanexton

Writing winning CVs

During the last 10 years of preparing winning tenders and expressions of interest documents for major construction and engineering projects, one thing has consistently reared its problematic head – CVs.

The main focus of the document writers and content providers is often on the technical aspects of the project, methodology, project experience, commercial offer and even value for money. These are the aspects that technical people are comfortable working with.

CVs are then often a distraction from what they perceive is the main game. The CVs are often the generic corporate CV shoehorned into whatever format the client has asked for – and often crammed into one or two pages. And yet, the team is often the number one scoring tender criteria. How does the client assess the team members? On their CVs of course! CVs are therefore extremely important.

I have developed the following format to:

  • highlight feature/benefit/proof of the person’s fit with the project
  • include succinct/factual statements – there is nothing worse than having to stretch the truth to fill gaps in a CV template!

Completing the template will take some work. However, if the person is a good fit for the role, it should be a fact gathering exercise, rather than a creative writing exercise. Most of the information should be able to be gathered through phone interviews, and then through a final fact-checking review of the draft CV document by the person.

So in an ideal world, what information should a winning CV contain? Based on my experience, the following template.


Name
Project position

Photo (headshot – get decent photos!)

Key tasks

  • list key tasks to be performed/delivered on the project.

Personal profile

One or two paragraphs each on:

  • summary statement of previous experience and personal style (feature)
  • how experience can be applied to the project; describe the person’s ‘fit’ with the project (benefit)
  • example of results previously achieved (proof).

Testimonial statement from a client (if possible).

Qualifications

  • list (include qualification, institution and date).

Project experience

Three projects or the last five years of projects – focus on relevant projects/aspects. Repeat the project format for other projects the person has worked on.

Project role #1
Project name #1

(Include small project image if available and space permits)

Client: (name)
Value: (final value — do not adjust for inflation as the project dates will indicate relative value)
Date: (dates actually worked on the project)

Overview of project #1 (one paragraph)

Relevance to current project (one paragraph) (benefit)

Key tasks (feature)

  • list key tasks the person performed

Achievements

  • list two (proof)

Referees

  • List two recent and relevant referees with contact details. Contact the referee to make sure they are happy being listed, and so that they are not surprised by getting a phone call!

The social media BBQ

The question, “Should you/your business use social media?” seems to be a common question in business circles at present. But to answer the question, you first need a definition of social media, and then need to understand the various flavours of social media. You then need to apply that knowledge to your own business circumstances.

What is social media?

Put simply, social media is content created by individuals expressing their own views and opinions. Traditional newspapers, radio and TV news are not social media; but content posted to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and blogs is.

Sending a media release to a traditional news organisation may or may not get your story published. But just as importantly, you are unable to control the message published by the media. Your facts may be presented very differently to how you intended. What is ultimately published carries the implicit endorsement of a third party, the journalist, and so is generally given more credibility.

Social media, on the other hand, allows you to control your message to your often limited audience of friends or followers. Typically posts on social media are not newsworthy in the journalistic sense (although there are exceptions), even though they may be very newsworthy and relevant to your friends or followers.

Types of social media

The easiest way to describe the various social media forums is to compare them with an offline equivalent.

Facebook is the backyard barbecue of the online world – mostly social with friends, but who is to say that you aren’t going to do business with the person you have just met over a beer and a sausage?

Twitter is about the BBQ — the here and now. “What are you doing?” “I’m at a BBQ and the BBQ just exploded.” Whoops! That should make for some interesting conversation. Self-indulgent yobs can be so self-absorbed in their own here and now, that they totally forget about you. “I’m scratching my navel now.” Who cares?!?
MySpace is the kids’ party on a Saturday night – very much oriented around teenagers interested in the latest music, and increasingly other multimedia such as video and games.

LinkedIn is the business lunch – you know everyone is there for business reasons, but even so you manage to catch up with other business acquaintances over a drink and some food. Business lunches can be very productive, but a bit of a bore if you are not in the business world.

Blogging is more like providing a detailed explanation about what you have done this week, rather than a 20 second grab of the highlights, around the BBQ. Hopefully you will be interesting enough in your narrative to keep people’s interest, rather than them wandering off for another drink and sausage. Blogging is a bit old school these days, but quite useful to put forward a more detailed explanation of your point of view. Not everyone has the writing and research skill to put together a thoughtful and interesting blog post.

My experience with social media

I have been online since 1994 – that was back when a 28 kbps dial-up modem was fast!

My own experience is that I have a Twitter account, but I do not Twitter. I do not have a MySpace account. I do not anticipate being active on Twitter or MySpace in the future.

Sometime back I changed my anonymous Facebook account (I know, it is against the Facebook rules!) to my real identity, but see this as really only social, not business. I try not to share too much personal information on Facebook because I am an old school web user. The limited information that I have put on Facebook is available by Googling me anyway. I do not intend putting my business on Facebook or Twitter because most of my business leads are generated from personal contacts.

I have a recently developed a personal business presence on LinkedIn, and am interested to track its progress. I keep in contact with a few business acquaintances this way.

I have a blog-style company news section on my business web site, and occasionally post opinion pieces there too.

I also have a personal blog, but it is anonymous as an individual and not linked to my business. The blog is where I put all my personal ramblings on various topics and generates more than 1,500 unique visits each month.

Should your business have a social media presence?

That depends!

If you are a business participating in social media, you should think of yourself as organising the BBQ – a bit like the Bunnings BBQ on a Saturday morning. You know people will stop by for a sausage, but then they buy a whole lot more.

If your business is based around attracting and engaging with groups of people, such as a professional association or sporting club, then a presence on Facebook may be useful.

If your business interacts with teenagers, then a MySpace presence may be useful – but make sure you are genuine! Don’t get a middle-aged PR person (like me!) trying to speak the teenagers’ lingo. You had better employ a couple of teenagers to get yourself a real presence there. A backyard BBQ is pretty dull for this group, so you had better think of something else that will capture their imagination!

If your business model is business to business, then LinkedIn may be a useful way to generate business leads, and be seen by other business people.

But Tweeting? If you have highly-engaging, must-have content that is relevant right now, then Twitter may be appropriate.

And blogging? It can be very useful to express your business opinion on topics to a wider audience.

Now go put another sausage on the BBQ would you? I’m hungry!