As a web developer, I know the importance of using the correct markup when writing a document or web page the benefits are obvious: easier to style, more “semantic”, and so on. To write a document the right way I simply utilize a text editor and HTML/CSS knowledge.
But of course, in the real world, not everyone is a web developer, and fortunately, to write a document there’s no need to know any markup language. The only tool you need is a rich text editor for example: Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and Libreoffice Writer; anyone with a PC must know at least one of these programs or used it at least one time.
With a rich text editor it is possible to do exactly the same thing that I as a developer do with HTML/CSS code and obtain the same results as writing a line of code, without having to write one and can just use the trackpad or mouse. However, even with all these resources available, we still see documents formatted in the “bad way”.
The bad way
In regards to the “bad way” to write a document, what I mean by this is that the document does not: contain the heading, use the “power of style”, and repeat the same steps to apply style changes again and again. Yes, I know that this way can be faster if it involves a really small document (i.e. one or two pages); but when the document is longer and needs to be well structured, well formatted, and easy to change in the future, we need to understand how to write it the “right way”
The right way
So what is the “right way”? Simply write the document and use all the potentiality of the program to save the time and obtain a better result; I’ll try to explain these few steps.
Focus on the content
It’s simple: write the content of the document and don’t worry about the appearance, like font family, size, color, and so on… all these things can be changed later.
Markup the text with the styles
When writing a heading, a simple text or a quote, specify always what “semantically” is the content. Every editor can show different style options, but you can create your own customized one. This is the most important step, and it just requires a little care and time, but after that we are able to do awesome things.
So what we do after that?
Format the Text
We are able to change at one time in one place the aspect of all elements associated to a style. For example, if you what to change the appearance of all of Heading 1 just go to the Style Panel, select the Style and apply the all the changes that you want, and they will automatically apply to the document, and equally if you want to change the paragraph appearance, etc..
Create a Table of Contents
We can create an Index in just few mouse click. Just go in the Insert menu and select the Table of contents / Index option, add additional information if needed and that’s all. The table of contents will update automatically each time you save the document.
All the editors provide some default themes. The themes essentially are collections of preformatted style so you don’t have to take care about the appearance of the document, but rather choose what you prefer. You can start the document using one of them, and you can change the theme later or you can create your customized theme to reuse in future.
Copy & Paste
When you copy and paste in your document from another document or from a web page, we also paste the styles, and they generally don’t match with the document’s styles. To solve this, just go from menu to Edit and look for the option Paste without formatting or Paste Special or Paste and Match styles or you can use the keyboard shortcut, but that depends on the editor you are using.
Whenever I work with documents I notice that many times people that want to start a new on the same document hit the <ENTER> many times until the cursor moves into a new page. This is absolutely the wrong approach because what happens if you change something in the text before the new page?
You will be forced fix all the underlying pages! The solutions is thus really simple, use page break (usually in the menu Insert > Page break).