Conditional Text

Conditional text is text that you want to appear only in a certain situation. For example, let’s say you’re using Microsoft Word to write two brochures for the new WidgetMaster 2000. One brochure is a sales piece; the other explains the product’s technical specifications. However, certain sections of both brochures contain exactly the same information.

The brochures are going to go through several rounds of client approval, and you’re not excited about having to make the same corrections in both. Of course, you could make the corrections in one and then copy the corrected sections into the other. But if you’re like me, you’d start to wonder if you’d been consistent about it, and at some point you’d get confused about which version was really correct. Fussing around with different versions is a pain.

Instead of working with two versions, consider using conditional text–courtesy of our old friend, Hidden formatting. (See our past two newsletters for other ways to use this feature.)

Using conditional text, you can write and correct just one document, hiding or revealing the conditional sections as needed. Here’s how:

1. Create the styles for the sections that are the same in both brochures: CommonHeading, CommonBody, and so on. (Or just use your usual styles.)

2. Create the styles for the sales section: SalesHeading, SalesBody, and so on.

3. Create the styles for the technical section: TechHeading, TechBody, and so on.

4. Base all of the styles *for each kind of section* on one main style. For example, you might base the SalesHeading style on the SalesBody style, and the TechHeading style on the TechBody style.

Now write the brochure, using the styles to format the common, sales, and technical sections.

When you’re ready to print one of the brochure versions (the sales version, for example), set the main style for the technical section (TechBody) to Hidden, as explained in last week’s newsletter:

All of the text for the technical section will disappear, leaving visible only the common and sales sections. There’s your sales brochure!

When you’re ready to print the technical brochure, remove the Hidden formatting from the main technical style (TechBody) and set it for the main sales style (SalesBody). All of the text for the sales section will disappear, leaving visible only the common and technical sections. There’s your technical brochure!

This may not be as sophisticated as the conditional text feature in dedicated composition programs, such as FrameMaker. But somewhere, sometime, maybe it will help you get the job done.

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