Creating documents from multiple sources and collaborators can become cumbersome and problematic very quickly. This can become even more difficult if each source and collaborator is using their own styles and formatting options. Many issues can arise when trying to meld all the different pieces into one cohesive and stylized document. Styles may not appear to be loading properly and formatting may look different between paragraphs.
The first step in solving any problem is diagnosing it. The most useful tools Microsoft Word has for figuring out what’s going on with your text/documents are the Status Bar, Show/Hide, Reveal Formatting and Style Inspector.
The Status Bar is the long grey bar across the bottom of your Word Window and it can give you a lot of diagnostic information. Right-click anywhere along the blank spaces of the gray bar to get the Customize Status Bar dialog box.
Check as many options as possible. For example, knowing that you’re in Section 1 of your document can help with diagnosing problems with headers and footers. Additionally, checking to see if your formatted page numbering the pages within your document can assist with table of content issues.
Turn on Your Codes
It is useful to be able to see visual representations of things like hard paragraph breaks and tabs. Just click the paragraph symbol (called Show/Hide) in the Paragraph group of the Home tab. Show/Hide is particularly useful for diagnosing spacing or justification problems.
NOTE: If you find all those codes distracting, leave it on just long enough to diagnose your problem and turn it off when you’re finished.
Reveal Formatting, a.k.a. Word’s Reveal Codes
You can get a lot more information from Word’s Reveal Formatting feature. Click SHIFT-F1, and the Reveal Formatting pane will appear on the right-side of your screen. Wherever you place your cursor, Reveal Formatting will not only show you how that text is formatted, it will give you hyperlinks to take you straight to the correct menu to fix it. WORD OF CAUTION: Take care not to mess up your styles by going in and making selective changes within styled paragraphs.
If you want to know why one paragraph doesn’t look like another, simply highlight the first paragraph, check the Compare to another section check box, and highlight the paragraph you want to compare to. Reveal Formatting will show you the differences.
The Style Inspector can assist you with troubleshooting problems with table of content entries and styles as it will tell you what styles have been applied to the highlighted text.
- Highlight the text to be inspected.
- Click the Home tab.
- Click the Styles dialog box launcher.
- Click the Style Inspector.
- Click Reveal Formatting (icon with magnifying glass).
- It will show you the styles applied in the selected paragraph.
Using all four diagnostic options or a combination of the options, will help you can get to the heart of any formatting and style problems you may have with your document. Additionally, the options will save you time and frustration in determining exactly where the problem lies.
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