MS Word Tip #1: The Show-Hide Feature

You’re ready to submit a piece to a contest or for consideration in the Guild’s anthology, and the submission guidelines say the piece must have 1-inch margins on top, bottom, left, and right; be double spaced, with the first line of each paragraph indented 1/2 inch; and the font must be Times New Roman, 12 pt size.

Easy enough to do, right? Well, let’s look at some examples.

From a draft work-in-progress, used with the author’s permission

This view ignores the document margins to illustrate the texts as two examples side by side. The texts in the two views appear the same, right? Both double spaced, both indented 1/2 inch on the first line of each paragraph, both in Times New Roman 12 pt. Both versions meet the criteria for submission outlined at the beginning of this post. If you printed this out, both versions would appear the same on the printed page.

But to a copy editor or book designer, the contents of these two views are very different. Knowing how to use the Show-Hide Feature in MS Word will reveal how these two views differ. Here’s the same side-by-side view of the two selections with Microsoft Word’s Show-Hide feature turned on.

Each of the paragraphs in the left view is formatted using different MS Word features or has additional hidden characters that will affect how the text must be handled when it is incorporated into a larger document. Some paragraphs are indented with spaces, some with tabs, some with multiple tabs, some with a combination of spaces and tabs. Editing the text illustrated on the left side may result in unexpected line breaks or white space on the page. If this has happened to you, keep reading.

On the right hand view, the paragraphs are all formatted the same, using Microsoft Word’s paragraph formatting option. No tabs or extra spaces indent the paragraphs. And no paragraph has extra spaces or tabs after the sentence-ending punctuation.

Your submission to a contest or anthology may be accepted on the basis of how the printed version appears, but you can make some friends with the editors and designers by learning to use Microsoft Word’s formatting features to clean up your text of unneeded hidden characters.

If you are not familar with Microsoft Word’s Show-Hide feature, check out the following resources:

Show / Hide Button in Microsoft Word from Beyond the Help Files

Watch for additional posts with MS Word tips, including an upcoming post about formatting documents and paragraphs in Word.

Categories: Writing and EditingTags: , ,

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