Since the Styles course opened, I've gotten questions from students about specific situations they're seeing. Here are a couple of interesting questions and my answers:
Since the Styles course opened, I've gotten questions from students about specific situations they're seeing. Here are a couple of interesting questions and my answers:
I received an email "distress call" from a reader recently. She's trying to get started with Styles (YAY!), but she's having some difficulties (BOO!):
Thanks to you, I’ve been trying to work with Word Styles. I’ve been building my own for my style of writing and formatting, but I’ve encountered an irritating problem. If I do any direct formatting within a style—say italicize some of the paragraph, or, for one part, indent or don’t indent, when the style calls for the other—it changes the style itself. What am I doing wrong?
As I explained to her, it's not so much a question of her doing something wrong as it is a flaw in the way someone set up the Styles. Whether she did it herself or inherited the problem from someone else's document or template, it's an easy fix.
Once you've pretty much mastered the basics of Word—you can create and open documents, you can format text, etc.—you may be wondering, "What's next?" Oh, sure, there are features you can't quite get your head around, tasks you wish Word could do (I'm looking at you, former WordPerfect users), things you wish were easier.
But surely there's more benefit to using a word processor than being able to directly edit the text after your first draft, right?
And yet that's how so many people use word processors in general and Microsoft Word in particular. Like a glorified typewriter.
Even if your document is pretty well-formatted (and doesn't commit some heinous sin like using the Tab key to force a hanging indent), it is possible to move beyond simply viewing a word processing document as a convenient way to edit something later.
Want proof? Here's a scenario for you: You're in the middle of creating a document, maybe some discovery answers (forgive me; I work in litigation, so that's where my brain goes automatically), and you know you're going to need a notarized acknowledgement for your client to swear that the answers are true and correct, blah, blah, blah, and to have his/her signature witnessed and sealed by an authority.
What do you do now? If you're like most of the people I've encountered in law offices, you start racking your brain for the last time you did one of these. Let's see, did we have to do one of these in that Jones v. Smith matter? Oh, yeah. So now you start combing through the document management system to find that prior example. You pull that document up, scroll down 20 pages to find the notary acknowledgement block, select it with your mouse, copy it, switch over to your document-in-progress, paste it, oops that messed up the formatting so you have to fix that, make sure you've pulled out the client-specific information and substituted the correct names, updated the date ...
How long did THAT exercise take you? Contrast that ... with this:
A reader came to me recently with a dilemma: He needed to create a document that had lettered exhibits sprinkled throughout, in a format that looked like this:
Okay, so far, so good. Autonumbering I can handle.
But here was his other requirement: He wanted to be able to generate a list of the exhibits at the end of the document (including the description of the exhibits as shown above) so his assistant would know what documents to gather and attach.
At first, I proposed making the list at the bottom of the document first, then cross-referencing within the document. But he countered that the exhibits within the document would be dynamic. In other words, he might be adding or subtracting exhibits within the document, so they needed to autonumber within the document itself.
That's another wrinkle.
I had to think about this one for a bit. It's not impossible (in fact, it's not even really all that hard), but it does require deploying several techniques:
(Note: this post was originally published July 16, 2015.)
I had a good conversation with Sam Glover on the Lawyerist podcast
recently about stuff I wish lawyers knew about Microsoft Office. It was a chance to say some things about how well (read: badly) many law offices use Microsoft Office.
One of those items on my ideal law firm training agenda was Styles. Sam and I are pretty much in agreement on why Styles is an essential Word skill. It’s so baked in, you can’t possible NOT use Styles, but very few Word users in my experience really use that feature well.
That part of the conversation was going pretty well. Then, at around the 13:08 mark, Sam asked me, “What’s the number one reason that lawyers ought to use Styles?”
And I froze. Then I mumbled something about getting all your level-three headings to update all at once.
So, because I can do a do-over on my own blog, here are six reasons I think you really ought to up your Styles game sooner than later.Keep reading →
Over at Attorney at Work, I recently began publishing a series of quick (i.e., less than 3 minutes) videos with Microsoft Office tips for lawyers. The second video in that series showed you how to insert the Publish as PDF command into the Quick Access Toolbar that sits just above/below the Ribbon for a one-click way to PDF any document.
I got some great feedback from that piece, including:
You’ve saved me over an hour already today!! Thanks!
Clearly, that’s someone who does a lot of PDFing! (Is that a verb?)
One reader, however, came back with a really interesting observation:
It's the one legal profession-specific feature in Microsoft Word. And, judging from some of the requests I receive from my newsletter readers, it's also one of the most intimidating. It's the dreaded Table of Authorities.
(Cue: Scary music)
In my experience, few things strike more fear into the hearts of legal support staff than having to put out a brief with a Table of Authorities. (Close second: Table of Contents) I suspect the bad rap TOAs get has more to do with how seldom most people have to deal with them (and thus, how unfamiliar they are) than with any real complexity of the feature itself. In other words, you can do this. And I'm going to help you break this down, step-by-step, starting with marking your citations.
Hands down, the biggest complaint I get is that Microsoft Word seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to formatting. People swear they did nothing more than breathe on their document, and things went completely wonky!
Of course, without actually standing over their shoulder and watching them work, it’s really impossible for me to know exactly what happened. A lot of times, there’s a pretty easy File > Options tweak that could prevent similar snafus from happening again. (And don’t even get me started about why you need to learn to use Styles.)
But in my experience, most people aren’t particularly interested in trying to figure out how it happened. They just want to fix it and move on.
So for that crowd, I’ve put together a two-minute video on the four fastest ways I know to basically nuke your formatting so you can start over. You can basically choose among these:
If you've ever had information typed up like this:
... and only needed to copy the stuff out of one or two columns:
... then you'll love this tip.
Say, for example, you needed to just get the dollar amounts and the names and copy them someplace else. If you've got a whole list of these, you might think you'll either have to type this up again, or copy-and-paste each piece of text separately.
Au contraire. Trust me, you'll love this trick!
I’ve been trying to solve a personal problem for a long time.
No, this blog hasn’t suddenly turned “confessional”. No TMI here.
The problem I’m referring to is this:
See that “3” that’s boxed in red above? That’s my problem. I wouldn’t say it’s the bane of my existence, but it still bugs me.
You see, I do a lot of Answers to Complaints in my day job. And I don’t know how you do it where you practice, but in our area, there are always sort of “catch all” paragraphs in the Complaint that we just answer with a standard “yeah, we’re just going to repeat our answer to all the above paragraphs without actually repeating it” statement.
That paragraph in the answer always starts with a reference to Paragraph 1 and ends with a reference to the immediately preceding paragraph. And if I’m using automatic paragraph numbering, that ought to be a breeze, right? If those paragraph numbers are driven by fields (which is all automatic paragraph numbering is), then I should be able to calculate “current paragraph number minus 1”. I’ve learned how to insert the current paragraph number into a paragraph. Why not the previous one?
Except … no. At least not according to the Microsoft MVPs I spoke to:
This post was originally published in September, 2015.
If you have any interest at all in the intersection between technology and lawyering, you should really check out this week’s podcast over at Lawyerist, where Lawyerist’s Sam Glover interviews Dennis Kennedy of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Some of the conversation goes where you’d expect—document review, artificial intelligence, technology versus offshoring, what really constitutes “lawyering”, etc.—but then around the 13:37 mark, the conversation turns to a subject near and dear to my heart; namely, document assembly (which Kennedy apparently has had extensive past experience with).
Although Sam’s not entirely convinced of its value (at one point protesting “I am perfectly capable of automating documents, but in my own practice, I almost never bothered, because it would have only saved me 30 seconds”), Dennis Kennedy responds with what I think are some critical insights: Keep reading →
Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you, reader? Seriously, if it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t find out about all sorts of things in Microsoft Office.
Case in point: a reader contacted me a few weeks ago and asked me this:
We recently upgraded from Word 2007 to 2013. In 2007 I had set up an auto correct for the term Id. In 2013 I can’t get the AutoCorrect to underline the term. Any ideas? Sharon
Frankly, I never knew you could format AutoCorrect entries. So I took to the interwebs to investigate.
Sure enough, it’s possible to teach AutoCorrect to correct both the spelling and formatting of an entry. But there’s a trick to it.
I’ll admit it: I am not a world-class typist. I can do about 85-90 on a good-to-average day, but years of working with word processors has made my error rate a little dodgy.
And I’ve noticed, over the years, that no matter how much typing practice I get, there are a few words I misspell (really, mistype — I actually do know how to spell them!) frequently. That annoys me. A lot.
But taking the advice of my fellow blogger Vivian Manning, I’m going to stop obsessing about typos and let the computer do more of the work for me. Because if the machines can do more work, why not let them? And because not many people know how to get Microsoft Word to correct their common typos, I’m going to show you how. (Because I want you to do less busywork, too!)
If you’ve ever typed a really long set of discovery answers/objections, you’ve seen language like this:
“[Party] objects to this request on the grounds that it is vague, ambiguous, immaterial, irrelevant, not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence …”
In fact, every attorney I know has his/her own boilerplate discovery objections — full paragraphs containing every possible objection one can make to a discovery request.
You don’t want to type that over and over and over again for 37 different discovery requests, do you?
Good. I don’t want you to, either. So I’m going to show you how to get out of it. Without quitting your job.
If your law firm does litigation work, you’ve probably prepared lots of discovery. And you may have wondered if there’s any way you can (a) avoid typing the phrase “Interrogatory No. X” in Microsoft Word over and over again and (b) get that X to be an automatically incrementing number.
If so, the answer is, yes, you can!
One of the reasons I love reader questions is that the best ones get me flipping through my reference books, scouring the Internet, and testing, testing, testing, trying to find a solution to a problem I’ve been wondering about myself (but never got around to examining).
Such was the case with this reader question:
I’ve been searching for the best way to create auto numbering for discovery requests: dare I say in WordPerfect I had the most amazing macros that used “counter” and creating a set of discovery was a snap. I’ve struggled to find something workable in Word. Some people use Discovery Request No. X – Interrogatory; others use Interrogatories No. X, Requests for Production No. X, Requests for Admission No. X throughout a set of discovery. There has to be a way to do this in Word, and I’ve tried several different approaches, none of which worked out that well. Would you please steer me in the right direction? Thanks very, very much.
I tossed back a rather glib answer about using the AutoNumLgl field code to number the discovery requests, and she threw in this little wrinkle: her attorneys like to play mix-and-match with their discovery. In other words, they may put in a couple of interrogatories, then throw in a related request for production, then another interrogatory, then a request for admission that’s related to that interrogatory.
Um. Okay. So they’re going to need three numbering sequences operating independently. Back to the drawing board.
One of my coworkers called me -- for, like, the umpteenth time -- asking me to pull up document 389729 (not its real name) and "do that footer thing" (a.k.a. my famous footer trick, wherein I insert a three-column table into a document footer so the document number is on the left, the page number is in the middle, and maybe the date/time stamp for the latest draft is on the right).
My "footer thing" is getting to be really popular around the office, and I'll have to show it to you sometime. But there's a way around having to build new footers in documents repeatedly.
If your documents are anything like the ones I’ve worked on over the years, there’s at least one section (the “Respectfully submitted” or the Certificate of Service in pleadings or the notary acknowledgement, for example) that has this in it:
Dated this the 15th day of August, 2012
If you start drafting the document on the 15th but don’t actually file (or sign or whatever) until, say, the 21st or the 30th or, heaven forbid, sometime next month or year, you’re either going to have to leave blanks for the day, month and/or year while you’re drafting or remember to update all those dates when you finalize the document.
But what if you didn’t have to do either one? What if your document was smart enough to do its own updating, based on the date you saved it last?
One of the most fun discoveries new Microsoft Word users make is the self-updating date. You may already know exactly what I’m talking about: you click a couple of times, and suddenly you’ve got today’s date embedded in your document, and it will update itself every time you open the document.
But what if what you want isn’t necessarily today’s date? What if you need the document to reflect the date it was saved, or printed, or created?
The good news is, you can get any of those with a couple more mouse clicks and a little know-how.
Early on in our Bulletproof Paragraph Numbering journey, Heather chimed in with this dilemma:
Our office typically uses headings when setting up multi-level lists and links them to styles. Unfortunately, as you know, doing that causes the style type to be linked when you go to modify styles.
Unfortunately, I have some very picky attorneys I work with who have exact specifications to their headings that don’t always work with Words functionality. For instance: ARTICLE 1. They want the text that follows ARTICLE 1. to be on the same line as the heading. They also want ARTICLE 1. to be bolded and underlined, HOWEVER, they don’t want the period bolded and underlined following ARTICLE 1. –> They also don’t want the text underlined and bolded.
As you can imagine, this proves very difficult since the paragraphs and characters are linked due to the fact that it is associated with a heading. With your vast storage of knowledge, can you think of a simpler way for me to set this up? They want headings to show up in and outline, or if necessary a TOC.
Also, I have one attorney who would prefer:
ARTICLE 1. (ARTICLE Bolded, Underlined but no period underlined and bolded)
ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS. (DEFINITIONS BOLDED, not underlined)
ARTICLE 1. DEFINITIONS. Text (Text not underlined)
4. (4 is Bolded)
4. Definitions (Definitions is Bolded and Underlined)
4. Definitions. (The Period is Bolded but not underlined)
4. Definitions. Text (The Text is plain no bold or underline)
It makes me want to pull my hair out!
I can completely sympathize! Those are both some pretty exacting specifications. Using Heather’s attorneys’ examples as inspiration, here’s one example of what’s possible:
Pulling off distinct formatting of numbering, the lead-in headings, and the rest of the paragraph requires mastery of two techniques: Style Separators and Numbering versus Heading formatting.
Some of you have asked, in the comments to previous installments of this series, how to save your favorite numbering scheme for future use and how to embed paragraph formatting (line spacing, spaces between paragraphs, etc.) into your numbering scheme. Doing either of these things requires that we back up a bit.
While you can save a list numbering scheme like the ones we’ve covered so far in the List Gallery by right-clicking it in the Lists in Current Documents section and choosing Save in List Library:
… that doesn’t allow you to name your list something that you’ll remember, nor does the Define New Multilevel List dialog allow you to directly change paragraph formatting or other settings you may want to embed in a custom numbering scheme.
To do those things, we’ll need to deal with Styles and Define a New List Style.