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Invisible Formatting

8 February 2019

13 Comments to “Invisible Formatting”

  1. Yep, this is a thing. That’s why you should always double click on the work, and THEN drag to select a section before bolding or italicizing. The program will automatically select just the text, and not the space after the text. And it will do it consistently, unlike a human dragging to select text.

    For paragraph styles, do NOT select anything. Just place the cursor in the paragraph (or heading) and use the Styles drop down to select the proper style. This works in Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, and LIbreOffice/OpenOffice.

  2. Indeed. My method in Word is to NEVER change formatting through anything but Styles. Treat the type face, size, bold, italic, and underline attributes on the Home ribbon as read-only.

    This has the added benefit of enabling instant and consistent style changes through an entire text. Decide you prefer underlining to bolding for your “strong” style? Modify the “strong” style and consistently change bold to underline through a 100,000 word text in seconds instead of hours of inaccurate tedium.

    • Or, you know, instead of the hours of inaccurate tedium, you could do a search-and-replace on text attributes. To use your example, to change all the bold text in a document to underlined text is trivially simple in Word.

      • I find styles easier than search and replace. Less room for error. So do that search and replace and replace the manual formatting with a style and never have to do the search and replace for that issue again. 🙂

        • Agree! I’ll even take it further into the weeds.

          Using search and replace can perpetuate hidden formatting if you are not careful. But it can be helpful for purging hiddden formatting. (Search on bold blanks and replace with a plain blank, for example. But be careful– sometimes you may want the blanks to be formatted, say in a title.)

          Using styles is less troublesome because it separates the physical manifestation of the style from the abstract notion of the style. I often use a separate style for temporary inline notes, which I put in italics. I also use italics for book title style. If I used search and replace to change italics to underlines, it would change both my notes and book titles, which is probably not my intent.

          Using styles makes it much easier if you have to put on a book designer hat.

          In Word, there is an option (File->Options->Display->Show all formatting) that is similar to the WordPerfect “reveal codes” that I sometimes use when the formatting gets confusing, usually around anchors, new-lines, and page breaks.

        • For complex formatting, I always use styles. Italics are a different matter: I use them heavily and consistently, since my work tends to contain a lot of book titles and foreign words. Those, according to the style manuals (and my own preference), are supposed to be italicized and nothing else. It’s a lot easier for me to hit Command-I (that’s ctrl-I for you Windows serfs) than to take my hand off the keyboard and go fishing around in a drop-down style menu several times in a paragraph. It doesn’t interrupt the flow. (An ergonomics wonk would probably say it minimizes therbligs.)

  3. Richard Hershberger

    WordPerfect. Yes, it is still a thing, with a modern version readily available, with that sweet, sweet “reveal codes” function.

  4. Ctrl+z?

  5. I’ve written two books and a bunch of magazine articles in plain ASCII, and I have no idea of how much “just text.”

    My old 1986 DOS text editor runs in a DOS emulator in Linux; when I need to edit a file larger than it can handle I use vi.

  6. This may be too late for any use, but MS Word has a show/hide button that even the little dots for each space show differently if they are bold or italic.

    For something totally messed up, I’ve been know to drop it into notepad, then copy that into a new document – the hard way, but sometimes the only way to be sure you got all of the hidden bits.

    • There’s also Wordpad. I found it is really good for cleaning up formatted text from extraneous sources.
      I use it with OCR’ed documents I scan. OmniSCAN and Abby both do weird things from time to time but Wordpad reduces the doc to its most basic form.
      Then I feed it to word and start styling.

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