Tips for editing tables in Word

Post by Merle Read and Susan Milligan

February’s Local SfEP Group meeting in Glasgow covered some exciting topics, including training events north of the border, writing more useful blog posts and the coming Scottish mini-conference. But there was also the added bonus of an extremely handy presentation on Word tables by two of the Glasgow Editors’ Network’s most experienced members, Merle Read and Susan Milligan. And this was just too useful not to share!

Whether you’re an experienced copy-editor or just starting out, editing tables can be tricky and, frankly, a bit of a faff. But with these tips* from Word gurus Merle and Susan under your belt, your efficiency will increase in no time.

* Instructions given refer to Word 2013, but plenty of the advice will apply to other versions of the program.

Getting organised in Word

Authors often use tabs or hard returns in the wrong places to make the table look right in Word: toggle Ctrl/Shift+8 to show these (or use on the Home tab). Remove unwanted spaces/tabs/returns. The typesetter will take care of the look.

Show the ruler (via the View tab) to enable easy resizing of columns, alignment of decimal tabs etc.

Use Tab to move forward and Shift+Tab to move backward in a table. Use Tab in the last cell of a table to add an extra row, or press Return with the cursor at the very far end of a row to insert a new row immediately below.

If you want an actual tab, use Ctrl+Tab.

Make a few keyboard shortcuts (instructions below) to add/delete table rows, e.g.

Alt+F9    insert row above the cursor
Alt+F10  insert row below the cursor
Alt+F11  delete current row (repeat as required to delete the table)

Changing the design and layout

To alter the table design or layout, place the cursor in the table and use the Design or Layout tabs that then appear on the ribbon or right-click for a menu that allows you to insert/delete/merge cells/rows/columns, change text direction or alter other table properties. NB merging neighbouring cells can sometimes mess things up: use with care, preferably once the rest of the table editing is complete.

You can also use the mouse to hover over various parts of the table to enable you to alter the design/layout. Hover over a line to click and drag the column width, or click on the 4-arrowed cross at the top left corner (appears when the cursor is within the table) to bring up a mini-ribbon of options:

Screenshot of mouse hover over a Word table

Click on the cross and then press Delete to remove the table content but leave the structure intact (it may be useful to copy & paste the skeleton if you have similar tables to edit).

Use the Border Painter in the Design tab to remove/add lines (set to No Border or a specific line width as required) by drawing the cursor over the lines. Esc key to cancel.

Screenshot of Border Painter

Choose the View Gridlines option in the Layout tab (the cursor must be in the table unless you have set up a shortcut to ShowTableGridlines).

SCreenshot of a Word table with gridlines showing

This allows the structure of the table to be clear even though various cell borders will be invisible in the final version:

Screenshot of a Word table without gridlines showing

To view an extra-wide table that disappears off the edge of the page, use Draft view (but when editing it check that it is not too wide for the page size for which is it destined in print). You could also select the table and reduce the font size for a better fit: let the designer worry about the look! Or change the page format to landscape (you may need to insert section breaks if the other pages are to remain portrait).

If copy & pasting, make sure the number of rows/columns being copied is no larger than the area of the table being pasted to.

Avoid using Track Changes when editing tables if possible (or at least don’t use it when formatting).

Checking your table is correct

Convert table to text and text to table (Insert tab, Table menu) as a temporary tool while editing (e.g. 2-column lists). This is also a way of testing whether a table is presented correctly – a correct table should convert to text and back again (one cell – one entry – no hard returns within cells).

To align numbers in columns on the decimal point (or on the right-hand digit if there is no decimal point), first left-align the column and then select the decimal tab from the top left of the ruler; then, with the whole column selected, place the tab on the ruler above the column heading at your chosen position.

Achieving consistency with Word tables

To format a series of tables consistently, use Word’s styles (either in the document or, preferably, in a custom template attached to the document). You can create paragraph styles for table title, column heading, table stub, table body, table bottom row (for tables that have a ‘Total’ row at the end), etc. If you base them all on one core style (e.g. ‘table text’), all will change if you make a change to that style (e.g. to change the font).

Screenshot of Word Styles dialog box

It’s fine to use the same font, size, formatting, and paragraph attributes for all the table styles if you are using styles not for the sake of the appearance of the tables (as it is the typesetter’s job to design them) but for efficiency and consistency. List the styles used for the typesetter, who can then convert the Word styles to the desired formatting in InDesign.

What if there are footnotes in the table?

If your author has embedded tables in a document that have auto-numbered notes, check that the tables don’t contain footnotes that are part of this numbering system. If they do, take these notes out of auto-numbering (or cut and paste the tables into a new document) and manually renumber the table footnotes (using alphabetic rather than numeric numbering). If a table just has one note, you can use an asterisk to indicate it (depending on house style). If it is a note that applies to the whole table, it will just appear below the table as ‘Note. …’.

There may also be a ‘Source’ below the table, normally positioned after any table note(s).

How to add a keyboard shortcut

Go to File/Options/Customize Ribbon/

Creating a Word keyboard shortcut

In the Categories box choose Table Tools | Layout Tab.

In the Commands box choose e.g. TableInsertRowAbove.

In the Press new shortcut key box, type the desired key combination, e.g. Alt+F9 (check it’s not already assigned to something you already use: if so, “Currently assigned to …” will be displayed).

Click Assign (essential!) then either return to the Commands box to add another shortcut, or click Close.

Keep a reminder of your shortcuts by printing them out. Bring up the Print dialog box. Under the Settings heading click on the Print All Pages dropdown. Under Document Info, choose Key Assignments, then click Print.

 

Do you have any tips of your own to add to these? Be sure to leave a comment. Or if you’d like to find out more, we’ve listed some relevant resources below.

Further reading

Butcher’s Copy-editing, 4th edn, pp. 220–9

Scientific Style and Format, 8th edn, ch. 30; 6th edn, ch. 31, pp. 678–93

See also https://wordribbon.tips.net/C0683_Tables.html

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Susan has learned about tables over the years by having to deal with them when editing on screen, as well as from an SfEP conference workshop on the subject by Penny Howes in 2009. Tables used to be a chore but she now enjoys getting to grips with them.

Merle (@MA_Read) has been wrangling with Word tables for over 20 years and tries to do so as efficiently as possible.

Everyone needs an editor

Post by Chris Bryce

‘If only I hadn’t said that’ … a phrase familiar to the broken-hearted following a heated row, or the regretful employee the morning after the office party. What would the miserable lover or tipsy partygoer have given for a filter on their spoken words? The answer would probably be … anything!

Given half a chance, they would have spotted their errors, stopped the conversation, cut out the offending sections of dialogue, reformatted the chat and started again.

Luckily, it’s different for the written word, because the writer can choose to get a fresh pair of eyes to act as that filter. And if those eyes are inside the head of a professional editor, who understands exactly where and why mistakes are made, then the writer will never have the unpleasant task of trying to claw back the words they’ve put on paper.

What do editors do?

Copy-editors know how to make words work well and deal with a wide variety of text – from T-shirt slogans, website wording and marketing materials, to academic papers, technical manuals and published books.

Whatever they’re working on, the copy-editor’s aim is always to improve the wording and format. Often referred to as the seven Cs of editing, an editor’s focus is to make the text: clear, correct, coherent, complete, concise, consistent and credible.

The human brain is hard-wired to fill in the blanks as we read. This gives us the ability to speed-read or scan our eyes over text. It’s a useful skill when we want to take in lots of information quickly, but it can also lead to us skipping over some outrageous errors without seeing them.

Here’s an example of what can go wrong. A healthcare provider had thousands of flyers printed to invite the local community to a ‘Pubic Health Day’. Of course, the flyers were meant to read ‘Public’. A funny mistake? The Chief Executive wasn’t laughing. Money was wasted on printing those useless flyers.

This example also perfectly demonstrates the unreliable nature of spellcheckers. ‘Pubic’ wouldn’t have been picked up by a computer program because it is a word; just not the right word here. Involving an editor or proofreader in the process would have saved a lot of time, money and embarrassment.

Who edits the editors?

It’s amazing how often good writers develop blind spots and fail to notice clanging typos and clichéd or overused words or terms.

Mismatched images and captions are another common area for mistakes, along with wonky formatting, punctuation and grammar. A text can have too few or too many headings, a variety of fonts and a host of other issues. Even copy-editors benefit from help with their own text and regularly seek the assistance of proofreaders to pick up on the unintentional typos and grammatical slips that can plague even the most elegant writing. Proof-editing (a combination of copy-editing and proofreading) is a comprehensive way to capture all of the problems with a piece of text, and turn good writing into excellent writing.

Don’t live to regret your words

It’s an editor’s job to help you make the most of your writing. But, perhaps more importantly, an editor will also help you to keep your reputation intact, making sure any written mistakes are never made public. (Or should that be pubic?)

As far as a verbal filter is concerned … well, drop me a line if you find the answer to that one!

 

For local, qualified copy-editors and proofreaders, take a look at our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris is an editor, proofreader and copywriter, with over ten years of experience across business, organisational and creative writing areas.

 

Cutting … cutting … cutting

Post by Lucy Metzger

Have you seen the Python sketch (episode 9) in which Michael Palin is a barber who is clearly disturbed and constantly almost on the point of stabbing his client, while trying to restrain himself? The client (Terry Jones) just wants a haircut.

Barber  You wouldn’t rather forget all about it?
Customer  No, no, no, I want it cut.Barber  Cut, cut, cut, blood, spurt, artery, murder, Hitchcock, Psycho … right sir … well …

Barber [later]  I’ve finished cutting … cutting … cutting your hair. It’s all done.

Because this leads into the Lumberjack Sketch, people tend not to remember the psychotic barber. But I do.
I mention this because I have an enthusiastic and perhaps unhealthy interest in cutting text. An early editorial gig of mine was in encyclopedias. I would be given an entry of perhaps 2,000 words, written by a specialist who just wanted to say everything about the topic, that I had to cut down to 200 words. I loved doing this.It wasn’t purely destructive: I liked the challenge of preserving the best and most interesting of the author’s offering while paring away the unnecessary. Destruction is fun, though. I like stripping wallpaper and breaking down old cupboards and chopping dead bits off trees. But there again, I’m getting rid of what I don’t want and leaving the good stuff.

An experienced colleague told me ‘You can cut anything by ten per cent’. (One time when I couldn’t sleep I tried to work out if you could go on doing this and have anything left. You approach zero pretty fast.) I tend to cut my own writing obsessively. You have no idea how long this post was before I posted it. Sometimes I feel I should just let myself write and leave it, but then I spot a word I don’t need … and another …

I bet YOU could cut this post by ten per cent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucy Metzger is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader, working mostly in teaching materials and academic and reference books, and a member of the Glasgow SfEP group. She is also the vice-chair of the SfEP.

How I got into editing – Max’s story

Post by Max Hepburn

Ever wondered how a person becomes ‘an editor’? This post is the first in our ‘How I got into editing’ series. These pieces are designed to give you some insight into the varied backgrounds of our members (we’ve come from all walks of life) and how we became embroiled in the wonderful world of editing.

Here is Max Hepburn’s story.

After completing my degree in French and German at Strathclyde University in the 1990s, I planned to pursue an academic career. First, I taught English at university in the north of France and then I spent two years as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in French back at Strathclyde. These years in academia helped me to work out where my true passion lay – not in teaching, but in pure language itself. (I attribute this in part to a rather unhealthy addiction to French puns, which I developed while teaching in Amiens.)

An intriguing job advertisement in Strathclyde’s careers advice department caught my attention with its headline ‘Linguists for Translation Work’. A technical translation agency near London was looking for Translation Checkers (bilingual proofreaders) to work in their office, and I leapt at the chance.

Exercising the little grey cells

For 10 years, I munched my way through thousands of intellectual property documents, ensuring the accuracy of translations from German and French into English. I also had to correct grammar, punctuation, syntax etc. to make sure that the text of the English translation flowed smoothly, and that it was easy to understand. The source documents we worked from were often full of mistakes, and so I had to draw on all my language training to untangle the mess. It really was a full workout for the brain every day.

The scientific, technical, legal, financial and medical texts we dealt with were very often exceptionally complex, especially the German ones with their mile-long sentences and sub-sub-sub clauses! I seemed to encounter every subject matter under the sun: gene technology, automotive engineering, nuclear power plants, shampoo formulae, cutting-edge medical research papers, underwear fabric design, bouncy castles, cow-scrubbing devices … the list is infinite.

GSOH required

It goes without saying that this kind of work could become tedious after a while. Of course, it was always fun to receive an amusing document, the subject matter of which raised the occasional eyebrow, but for the most part the reading was mind-numbing. Therefore, my colleagues and I would devise various ways to amuse ourselves and stave off the inevitable boredom that stalked us daily. Puns were our favourite, and whenever someone in our team happened upon a ripe phrase in the document they were working on, he or she would announce it, and the pun marathon would begin. Chickens, cheese and anything vaguely saucy were always reliable subjects for endless hours of linguistic tomfoolery.

This work, I have to say, embedded in me a profound affinity with, and love for, the myriad intricacies of language in all its manifestations, especially at the interface between different languages. Needless to say, my ‘proofreader’ head is now permanently on, as it will often be for most editors. I have worked in other industries, completely unrelated to language, but those 10 years in England put me squarely on the path to becoming an editor.

Support is all around

It has been a real boon to discover the Glasgow Editors’ Network, and to get to know other editors through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Glasgow area group. The meetings are always fun and I am absorbing lots of useful advice from fellow group members about starting out as a freelance editor. I look forward to developing my career in such great company.

Just beginning a career as a freelance copy-editor or proofreader? Come along to the next SfEP Glasgow group meeting. Contact Denise Cowle for details.

Looking for an editor or proofreader? Head to our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Max Hepburn is an Entry-Level Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, after 10 years working in the translation industry. Alongside building up his career as a freelance editor and proofreader, Max enjoys singing in choirs, playing piano, cycling long distances and eating cake.

The ups and downs of working from home

Post by Carolyn Fox

Before I get started, I should probably explain that I say working ‘from home’ because that’s the phrase to which we are all accustomed. Strictly though, I think that applies to the increasing number of employees who work a day or two a week at home instead of the office, rather than someone like me who is self-employed – I work ‘at home’. And, of course, we mustn’t forget people who work ‘in the home’, as I did when I gave up my full-time job as a solicitor to care for my children … But, semantics aside, let’s get to the point.

Whenever I tell anyone that I work from home I’m usually asked two questions:
1. Don’t you get distracted/find it difficult to concentrate?2. Don’t you get lonely? (Particularly pertinent as I’m now officially an ‘empty-nester’ – my youngest son has just gone off to university!)

The answer to number one is easy: there is nothing like a looming deadline to concentrate the mind! I know that if I miss a return date my client is not going to employ me again. Experience tells me that reliability is one of the qualities that clients value most in a freelancer so, if I want that all-important repeat business, I must get the job back on time.

Do I get lonely? Yes, of course one can feel a little isolated at times, but there are ways round this. As a freelancer, it’s up to me when I do my work and so a few times a week I will make sure I go out for a walk or have coffee with a friend, either at lunchtime or perhaps first thing in the morning. And because I don’t have to spend hours commuting, I have time in the evenings to pursue my other interests.

Also not to be forgotten are professional contacts – not least our Glasgow SfEP local group. It’s amazing how quickly our monthly meetings come around! It’s a real tonic to meet other people in the same line of work and to have the opportunity to discuss issues we’ve encountered in the weeks between meetings. In short, I choose who to spend my time with (and when) rather than becoming embroiled in office politics.

Freelancing is not for everyone: you have to be self-motivated and self-sufficient, but I for one would not swap it with my old life in the office.

Want to give freelancing a go? Have a look at the SfEP guide Starting Out: Setting up a small business available at http://www.sfep.org.uk/resources/guides/#SO.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn is an advanced professional member of the SfEP and specialises in law. A number of years ago she left her job as a solicitor in the south of England for working at home in the beautiful East Lothian countryside and has never looked back. Find out more about Carolyn here: www.carolynfox.co.uk.

How to avoid ‘author query rage’

Post by Stephen Cashmore

There is plenty of advice in the textbooks and elsewhere about how to deal with queries you have for the author. Most of it is common sense:
  • Don’t write, ‘Dear author. This sentence is gobbledygook. Please supply something that is comprehensible,’ no matter how tempted you might be to do so.
  • Do write, ‘Dear author. I don’t quite follow [insert sentence here]. Can you clarify it for me?’

Oh yes, a copy-editor or proofreader’s shoulders need to be broad. (That’s not in the job description, is it?)

What else do the textbooks say?

Give an alternative where you can. Don’t just say, ‘I’m not sure that “serendipity” is quite the right word here,’ but add, ‘What about “luck”?’ More common sense, and often tedious to put into practice, but authors will thank you for anything that saves them some work.

Make sure they know where to look. ‘Dear author. I don’t think you can start this sentence with “Therefore” as there is no causality implied,’ might just get you the response, ‘Where is this?’ Much better to put a detailed reference in the query [‘Dear author: p6 l5’] or make inline queries in the document itself, depending on your preferred style.

You’ve heard all this before, and even if you haven’t seen it set out explicitly, you’d have the common sense to do all these things anyway, wouldn’t you?

But one piece of advice I don’t often see in print is to make sure that the query is actually a query, and that it is as closed as possible:

  • ‘Dear author. Should there be a sentence in between “… Armageddon.” and “The next day…”?’ Answer: ‘Yes.’
  • ‘Dear author. Is the Bloggs (forthcoming) reference still forthcoming?’ Answer: ‘No, it was published last year.’
  • Or even, ‘Dear author. Shall we use “serendipity” or “luck” here?’ Answer: ‘OK.’ Urgh.

There’s nothing worse than having to go back to clarify one of your own queries. Even if you are actually conveying more of a decision than a query, make sure the author can make a simple response:

  • ‘Dear author. I notice you capitalise Gamma more often than not, so I propose to standardise on Gamma rather than gamma. OK?’

Adding that simple ‘OK?’ can save you a lot of grief.

So next time you write out your author queries, by all means follow the textbook advice, but also make sure that your author knows exactly what is being asked and has a simple way to respond. If you don’t, you might find yourself subject to an intense bout of author query rage, for which there is no simple cure.

OK?

For a list of easy-to-work-with editors and proofreaders, head to our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephen Cashmore is an advanced member of the SfEP who lives in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland. He is an ex-teacher, ex-accountant, ex-bridge player and ex-auditor, but threw all that over to become an editor after taking early retirement. Check out cashmoreeditorial.com

Editors – not just a bunch of pedants?

Post by Ron Smith

When I started proofreading and copy-editing for a living in January 2011, I was searching for order in language. So, if Hart’s Rules said it should be done in a certain way, that’s what I conveyed to, and in my very early days, perhaps even imposed on, some of my customers.

Hart’s is undoubtedly a first-class guide, but it is not the God of language and, indeed, there is no body in overall control of language – a concept argued in a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘The Pedant’ (an episode in the Word of Mouth series).

Instead, general usage is what the language is.

Standards are slipping!

I used to be firmly in the camp of ‘Standards are slipping’ and, according to the above programme, I was in good company since Defoe and Swift, I learned, also held that view.

Much of my work is on documents produced by students, many of whom are postgraduates. I still have difficulty understanding how anyone can complete a university education and still not know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ or ‘were’ and ‘where’, yet I come across this frequently.

So although the message from this programme is that standards of literacy have never been higher in this country, this is not a premise that I can wholeheartedly agree with. Having said that, my attitude towards, and treatment of, variations in language usage have altered over the years.

Old habits

In the past, I would:

  • always change ‘data is’ to ‘data are’
  • insist on the presence of ‘on the one hand’ before allowing ‘on the other hand’
  • make any leading capitalisation lower case if there was no grammatical justification for it
  • insert ‘that’, as a subordinating conjunction, at every opportunity
  • bar stranded prepositions (‘with’, near the end of the previous paragraph, is an example).

Current practice

Regarding the above:

  • It is perfectly acceptable to use ‘data is’, providing it is used consistently.
  • ‘On the other hand’ can be used without preceding it with ‘on the one hand’.
  • Leading capitalisation is a matter of style and, where necessary, I remark on it but do not change it.
  • Providing sense is maintained without the word ‘that’, I accept its omission.
  • There is no grammatical rule against the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence.

Pedantic rules

Before listening to this programme, I was not aware that many of the pedantic rules of language had resulted from people like Thomas Sheridan, in the 1780s, telling anyone who would listen that they were not talking elegantly or politely enough (loaded words in the 18th century). This was during the Industrial Revolution, when huge numbers of people were moving from the countryside into towns, trying to make sense and order out of the seismic changes in their lifestyle. Consequently, I can well understand how adopting such new rules was seen as part of people’s path to bettering themselves.

Language is constantly changing

Every year, the OED adds words to its dictionary and in 2014 alone that number passed 1000. Proofreaders and copy-editors are well aware that the language is constantly changing and seek to allow writers freedom of expression, while ensuring that the end product makes sense and is suited to its intended audience.

Sense, consistency and audience

Providing sense and consistency are maintained, and the writing suits the audience (another point made in the programme), I am now much more likely to accept variations in usage. Where any variation does not meet these three criteria, I will either correct any mistakes or make suitable suggestions on style, but now I will leave well alone, if at all possible.

How we can help

So all writers should rest assured that we proofreaders and copy-editors are not there to pounce gleefully on your possible stylistic infelicities but to make your document, on which you have probably spent considerable time and effort, fit to put before the specific audience you are aiming at.

To ensure your writing is fit for purpose, head to our Directory now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ron is a proofreader and copy-editor with a love of words, radio, travelling and sport, especially football (both kinds) and baseball – all of which keep him busy, as does his joint (with his wife) part-time job of looking after their new grandson.

What’s so good about THIS blog?

post by GEN

As slaves to ‘the deadline’, we editor-types know that time is precious. And, as a result, most of us don’t have time to peruse all the editorial blogs we’d like. So we’re using this inaugural post to tell you why our blog is worth taking the time to read. Here goes …

Who writes the posts?

Members of the Glasgow Editors’ Network take it in turn to write these little gems of wisdom. This means you’ll find information and experience from an array of editorial professionals who work with a variety of clients, including authors, publishers, large companies, charities and SMEs.

Who will find this blog useful?

Lots of people! (Because we blog about a whole host of stuff that’s good to know.) But, specifically, our posts are designed to be interesting and informative for:

  1. Editorial professionals – our members are generous with their knowledge and regularly share their on-the-job experiences (& some nice handy tips) to help others in their work.
  2. Those wishing to use the services of an editorial professional – this blog is also for individuals, businesses and organisations looking to improve the quality of their online and paper publications – and, consequently, the reputation of their brand. (You’ll even glean little titbits worth knowing – the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ – before employing one!)

So, go on. Take five minutes and dive in. You never know what you might find out about Glasgow’s editors and what we can do for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glasgow Editors’ Network  – GEN – is a group of independent professional editors and proofreaders with a wide range of skills and extensive experience.