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Old 02-12-2012, 07:37 AM   #1
Jonathan Gledson
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Default How do you like your copy?

Does anyone know of any authoritative guidelines for contributors on how to structure their documents in MS Word. I'm thinking about the correct use of Styles, heading levels etc so that when designers get the text it's not just all "Normal" or no style with manually added formatting for headings, subheadings, bold, italic etc. which takes ages to format properly.

I'm actually looking for a way of suggesting this to everybody we work with, without sounding like I'm accusing them of doing things wrong... An authoritative sounding source would be more persuasive!

As well as speeding up the traditional design process, it would make it easier to convert documents to other formats like epubs id we could search and replace "styles" with html tags.

Cheers
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Old 02-12-2012, 08:29 AM   #2
Bo Aakerstrom
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Welcome to the forum!

Why not suggest a "house style" so all documents conform to a standard look. that way they aren't doing something wrong, but just making life easier for you (or whoever has to do all the editing).

   
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Old 02-12-2012, 05:27 PM   #3
Howard Allen
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I hate to say it, but I believe that trying to get a bunch of contributors to conform to a particular set of styles is bound to fail, and I think many people here will tell you the same thing. It's like herding cats. You'll get the wrong fonts, wrong type size, wrong leading, wrong paragraph indents, wrong quotation marks, wrong hyphenation, wrong size subscripts & superscripts, wrong column sizes and gutters... As soon as you get one person sorted out, someone else will send you something else that's not right, and you'll spend more time finding and fixing the goof-ups and training contributors (who each have their own idea of what looks good and will chafe at your attempts to train them) than working on the layout.

I actually prefer to get completely unformatted text, and I tell my contributors that. Working in InDesign, I have the Place (import) dialog set to strip off all styles that come with Word docs. It's relatively much easier to set up style sheets and master pages for all the different parts of your layout, then quickly apply them to the text. Style sheets can be extremely powerful if used to full advantage and can reduce formatting text to a few clicks. Much less painful than tearing out your hair ;-)

Welcome to the forum, BTW!

   
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Old 02-12-2012, 05:53 PM   #4
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Howard's right. Left to their own devices, most people will hand you a dog's breakfast.

I've written for a few publishers, though, who had very strict house styles and who provided Word templates to be used by writers. These sometimes included toolbar buttons eg. for various heading levels, sidebars, callouts and such. Select the text, click the button and it did the formatting for you. Well. For them.

The smart publishers also supplied instructions for using the template, a full explanation of what the different levels of formatting meant and even what they'd look like in the finished magazine or book. The dumb ones simply told you to use the template and left you to work out the rest on your own. And being more intelligent, you'd simply ignore them and the template. And try to find work with the first bunch instead.

IOW, if you expect people to use the templates/formatting, you have to explain how and why.

   
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Old 02-13-2012, 04:28 AM   #5
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I'm with the others on this - I have made templates with custom toolbars and auto-texts to try and get the cats to at least wander vaguely in the same direction, but most authors have no concept of styles or consistency! The only success I had was with a German company which has a strong corporate culture of doing things properly and used the templates as designed. But the rest - fergeddit. Random character formatting - that's fine! Multiple hard returns for para spacing or page breaks - great!

You can only get buy-in with extensive training, management that wants to make it happen, and a compliant workforce. Also, banging on about how much money will be saved usually only works in very small companies - in bigger ones, it isn't such a pressing issue for the individual.

If you have control of installations, you can turn off all the format tracking options and auto-format stuff that causes a lot of this.

You can also lock down formatting has described here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/wo...010090865.aspx though I haven't tried it yet.
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Old 02-13-2012, 05:51 AM   #6
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The only way to herd these cats (love that analogy) is to send stuff back when it doesn't meet the criteria. And that almost never happens due to deadlines or other reasons. If you take it wrong once, then you have just trained them to ignore the guidelines/rules/etc.
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Old 02-13-2012, 12:33 PM   #7
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There speaks an expert catherd and behaviourist!
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Old 02-14-2012, 03:55 AM   #8
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Thanks for all your suggestions.
I was looking for a simple & persuasive explanation of the importance of making the meaning & structure of content clear, even if you don't care what it looks like.
I may have stumble across it here:
http://publishingperspectives.com/20...agile-content/
Though some writers & editors may still not see the link to correct use of style sheets in Word...
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Old 02-14-2012, 07:05 AM   #9
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No problem in asking them to follow some guidelines. Just be aware of the fact that 20% will ignore them, or misinterpret them, or screw them up in some way. Just make sure your workflow does not depend on the perfection in source materials.
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Old 02-14-2012, 07:47 AM   #10
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20% ? Aren't WE the optimist this morning! ;-)

   
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