Winning Strategies for Word Wrestling

By Robert L. Blacksberg, Esq. on October 19, 2017
Robert L. Blacksberg, Esq.

Bob’s experience spans more than two decades of technology leadership for lawyers, following a law practice that included partnerships at two Philadelphia law firms. Bob is principal of Blacksberg Associates, LLC and leads engagements with law firms in strategic technology planning and implementation, creates and delivers CLE training programs, and works with leading technology vendors to explain, promote and train leading-edge technology products for lawyers. An author and speaker, Bob has appeared at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference and on ILTA Roadshows. His column, “The Word of Law” appeared in Woody’s Office Watch and helped establish standards for best use of Microsoft Word and protection against the risks of metadata. He can be found on Twitter at @rblacksberg and on his website.

In part one of a three-part series on using Styles in Microsoft Word, Bob Blacksberg illustrates how it can help you create polished, professional documents.

Despite two decades of experience with Microsoft Word all too many lawyers and law practices still wrestle with it. Middle of the night improvised exploding formatting is a familiar hazard. Too many hours futzing with the details of basic formatting can be much too frustrating. Lawyers and many staff find even more mysterious or difficult the features designed for polished, professional documents. They may have never mastered the table of contents or even seen how to navigate and edit based on a document’s content and substance, reusing, removing, and relocating clauses, articles, and sections.

A deeper understanding of Microsoft Word can help overcome these hurdles. Hiding in plain sight, Styles is Word’s core feature and fundamental construction tool.

Why? Doesn’t applying a style make it harder to learn how to format Word documents? Doesn’t Word highlight the necessary formatting right on the home ribbon, or some ribbon, somewhere?

With understanding, preparation, methods, and tools, applying styles can make formatting much simpler and more accurate and consistent. The formatting tools on Word’s ribbons may seem to do these tasks, but can leave documents with hidden traps, mines triggered to explode.

In this and the following blog posts, I will explain what Styles can do, where to apply appropriate styles so legal documents have a logical, substantive structure and a few essential rules for their use, and how lawyers, staff and vendors or consultants can work as a team to make Styles as useful, effective and accurate as can be.

We can see what applying appropriate styles does with an agreement that incorporates headings, numbered sections and subsections, and a table of contents. The image below illustrates the agreement.

Figure 1 - Agreement Overview.png

 Figure 1

The “Normal” style applied automatically to the content of this document only specifies the font, justification, and paragraph spacing of the document. It has no indication of the document’s structure, such as heading levels or paragraph numbers. It can’t be used to build a table of contents, or to navigate and edit the document.

Word’s Navigation Pane can show a document’s structure. To make the Navigation Pane visible, check Navigation Pane in the Show section of the View ribbon, as illustrated below.

Figure 2 - Turn on Navigation Pane.png

 Figure 2

A document lacking specific styles also lacks the substantive structure that makes the Navigation Pane work and a table of contents easy to generate, see example below.

Figure 3 - With Only Normal Style, Empty Navigation Pane.png

Figure 3

With appropriate styles applied, the Navigation Pane fills with the structure of the document, and a table of contents has been constructed in a single step, as shown here.

Figure 4 - Styles Applied, Navigation Pane Filled.png

Figure 4

Now it is possible, practical, even magical to use the Navigation Pane to edit the agreement. The headings in the Navigation Pane can navigate to, select, move, or delete text consisting of a heading and all of its content.

For a lawyer as draftsperson and editor, with this use of Styles and the Navigation Pane, a legal document works the way a lawyer thinks – each clause an intact whole.

Figure 5 illustrates the use of the Navigation Pane to select a section of an agreement. After right clicking on the heading name in the Navigation Pane, the context menu offers the choice to “Select Heading and Content.” Figure 6 shows the selection of the content for the heading “Organization and Qualification” and the ability to drag that entire section to a different place in the document. Finally, Figure 7 shows the completion of the move of that section.

Figure 5 - Selecting a Heading and Content.png

Figure 5

Figure 6 - Drag and Drop Heading and Content.png

Figure 6

Figure 7 - Move Completed.png

Figure 7

For me, applying appropriate styles turns paragraphs into the LEGO® blocks of Microsoft Word – highly standardized blocks that snap together to form the whole of the document. In the next post, we will explore how paragraphs with appropriate styles snap together, and plenty more.


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