Glorious Color

In the past, I’ve recommended using your own template to apply to documents you’re editing. This allows you to use a typeface that’s easy to read on your monitor, offers plenty of differentiation between double and single quotation marks, and has a long em dash, a medium-sized en dash, and a short hyphen (so you can tell them apart). You can learn more about this here:

One difficulty I’ve encountered with my custom template is distinguishing between different heading levels. I like to know at a glance how a heading is styled, without having to look at the formatting toolbar or the “style area,” which you can learn about here:

To get around the problem, I’ve usually formatted my Heading 1 style in 22-point type, my Heading 2 style in 18-point type, and my Heading 3 style in 14-point type, with Heading 1 and 2 centered and Heading 3 flush left. This works okay, but if I need to add Heading 4 and Heading 5 (which is sometimes necessary), I start running out of formatting.

But I’ve recently discovered a nice solution: color!

Why not make Heading 1 red?

And Heading 2 blue?

And Heading 3 green?

And Heading 4 orange?

And Heading 5 brown?

You get the picture! Some of the standard Microsoft Word colors stand out well on a white background and are easily distinguishable from each other. These are, in my opinion, red, blue, green, orange, brown, pink, sky blue, bright green, and dark yellow (one for each of Word’s nine heading levels), but feel free to use whatever works well for you.

You might want to arrange the heading level colors in a way that is easy to remember. The order I used above works for me. I split the colors into groups of three: red, green, and blue (commonly known as RGB); orange, brown, and pink (which makes no sense except that I like orange better than brown, and brown better than pink); and finally (in order of sky, lawn, and dirt), sky blue, bright green, and dark yellow. But you could use the (approximate) order of the spectrum, or maybe some mnemonic device based on the first letter of each word.

Whatever system you choose, using color makes it easy to see and identify heading levels, and it also makes a manuscript much more fun to read!



After reading last week’s newsletter about making punctuation big and bold, Hilary Powers wrote:

Enjoyed the newsletter, as always – but the current suggestion seems like an awful lot of work for a partial solution. I much prefer to edit in a font that has punctuation big enough to see… and everything else, too. If you have Lucida Console on your system, give it a try – it’s both denser and easier to read than Courier New, and everything is clear. Even the dots for spaces with hidden characters turned on are the size of lentils. The similarity between en dashes and hyphens is the only problem for onscreen work, and that’s easy to deal with.

It looks awful on paper, though, so you do have to change it – basically, switch templates – before giving the file to anyone who plans to print it.

Susan Bullowa wrote:

I highlight all punctuation marks using Search and Replace. No font fuss. Next time, I plan to develop nested macros (if I can in Word).

In a book I just worked on, the author’s I’s, me’s, and my’s were all highlighted because my editor asked me to make the book a bit less egocentric! It worked like a charm.

Karen MacKenzie, a Word moderator and WMVP at Woody’s Lounge (see the Resources column, below), wrote:

Great tip! I’ve already placed style and macro in my But I did modify the replace so as to get it all in one fell swoop. The change as follows:

Wild Card search

Search for: [,.;:'”] (What you listed, but I omit the hyphens and dashes… too much for me!)

Replace with ^& (this tells Word to put back what it found)

Many thanks to Hilary, Susan, and Karen for their helpful thoughts and suggestions.



Woody’s Lounge, as the name implies, is a great place to hang out and learn more about Word and other Microsoft stuff. Post questions, get answers, and help others with your ever-expanding knowledge. You can visit the lounge here:

Don’t forget to check out Woody’s books and other goodies while you’re there.

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