Brushing Up

June 15, 2011

By Lila Wallrich

There was a time when writers had a choice of word processing programs: Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect. I think you know who won that battle. Now we all use Word. But like the human brain or Photoshop, most people only use 10% of it. Here’s a feature that you probably don’t know about, but will definitely use once you learn it. It’s called Format Painter, and it allows you to grab formatting from one place and apply it to another. It’s particularly useful when you’re copying and pasting from differently formatted sources.

First, let’s find the button. It’s this guy pb. On older versions of Word, you’ll find him halfway down the standard toolbar. On newer versions, he’s on the Home tab.

So suppose you open a doc with Word’s default style: 12-point Times New Roman.

Then you paste in a blurb from Wikipedia that’s 10-point Arial bold.

Then you grab a headline from a blog that’s 16-point Georgia peach.

That does not look good.

You want to standardize a bit. Let’s suppose you’re as uncreative as I am and wish to make all the pasted stuff match your Times New Roman style. (Plagiarists, this is not enough to hide your tracks, but it’s a start.) The basic move goes like this:

  1. Click on a word with the format you want to apply elsewhere.
  2. Click the Format Painter button: pb
  3. Click & drag to highlight the section you want transformed. Voila.

As they say in the infomercials, it’s that easy. But wait, there’s more. Format Painter is the only button that has a special “double-click” function at no added cost, and it’s like turning your paint brush into an industrial paint sprayer with an air compressor. Suppose you’ve got many instances of rogue dissident formatting scattered throughout the document, and you want to reform them all. Take the same instructions above, but double-click the Format Painter button. That turns on the air compressor, and while it’s on, you will reformat anything you drag your mouse across, applying the format from Step One. When you’re done with your reeducation campaign, just click the Format Painter button one more time to turn the thing off and go back to normal operations.

Happy formatting!

Brushing Up

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