The 10 Commandments of Word Processing - Digital Literacy Dover

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The 10 Commandments of Word Processing

This has to be one of the most commonly used ICT skills, even be the most tech reluctant, but unfortunately as most of us are self taught, there are quite a few aspects that have been poorly learned, are poorly practised, and are now inevitably poorly taught...

The good news is that once you know what you don't know, it's easy to fix, the chances are, no matter how long you've been word processing, you will find a few surprises in this list:

  1. Thou shalt use spell check (but don't rely on spellcheck—homophones much?). 
  2. Thou shalt use the built in thesaurus (and use 'Command+F' to check for repetition!).
  3. Thou shalt not ignore the grammar/proof reading tool—if it's got a squiggly line under it, check it!
  4. Thous shalt not centre text by tapping the spacebar, use the centre align icon on the formatting bar. 
  5. Verily the same is true for tabbing, use the tab key to indent, not the spacebar (also useful for adding a new row to the bottom of a table).
  6. Thou shalt not do things manually that can be done automatically; like adding page numbers, numbered lists, or creating a table of contents.
  7. Thou shalt use the 'paste unformatted' or 'paste as text' option to avoid reformatting all the text you paste in. Every. Time.
  8. Thou shalt use the styles menu to structure your document with headings etc (and you can't use some automatic features without this).
  9. Thou shalt insert a page break if you want a new page (don't just repeatedly hammer the return key).
  10. Thou shalt not hammer keyboard keys— NEVER press a space bar more than once, or a return key more than twice. 
All of the above are true regardless of the tool you use for word processing, from MS Word, to Pages, to Google Docs. The last of these is arguably the most practical in our context, so here's some specific pointers:

Google Doc formatting like a boss... 

Use the templates to get a head start, these also function is great 'mentor texts' for students to see how formatting using Styles looks and works. Instead of creating a Doc within Google Drive, click on the Google Grid and select Docs—Voilah!

Inside any Google Doc, the Styles menu allows you to format your document with a couple of clicks,  you can even customise this menu so the Styles use the fonts and formatting you prefer, these will be available in any Google Doc you create or edit.

Once you've formatted your document using Styles, you can add a Table of Contents with a couple of clicks, just go to Insert > Table of Contents. All the formatting, and page numbering all done for you, you can even choose a more screen friendly version that makes all the headers hyperlinked.

Can you show me?

Google have an online guide that will step you through all of the above, and this article has a similar guide to the skills I've outlined above, but specifically tailored to Microsoft Office, and with lots of nice pictures! The key takeaway is that these skills are conventions that apply regardless of the platform, device or application you use, from MS Word, to Pages to Google Docs, they all utilise and provide these features.

Last but not least, here are some video tutorials I made a few years ago, this is in the older version of Pages, but as is often the case with tech, not much has really changed, these fundamentals of word processing are pretty much unchanged in over two decades!

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