Clearing Out Style Overrides and Unhealthy Partnerships

Posted: November 8, 2016 | By:

Today’s editors get paid to fix formatting, not just wording. In fact, I’ve been paid a princely sum to search and destroy formatting overrides over the years. (“Princely sum” in this case means I’ve been able to recoup a small portion of the massive losses I incurred while indexing books for underfunded publishers, but that’s another story.)

Suppose you are in one of the ugly scenarios we described in How Styles Impact Your Career, Marriage, and Temperament. Your parter sends you the last five pages of a proposal that was supposed to be the deal-clinching summary to a detailed winning presentation about your company’s proficiency at making donut holes. You paste your partner’s text into your proposal body, and then everything goes wrong. The pasted text looks different, it extends beyond the page count, the headings don’t appear in the table of contents, and you can’t drown you sorrows in a caffeine-charged latte because a) you have no time and b) you have no money. What can you do to save the situation?

You have no choice but to do one of two things: clear out the style overrides one by one, or paste the entire file as plain text and then apply the correct styles yourself. Neither alternative is very pretty, and the one you choose requires a quick estimation about the time required for each.

The first alternative, search and destroy the overrides, is a relatively easy matter with Word. In the post  Exposing Your Style Overrides, we saw how Word’s Style Pane can expose style overrides.

Styles pane showing style overrides

Clicking on the down arrow for 10 pt, Black, Centered, Left: gives you an option to select all the text with that style override. You can go through each of those overrides, one-by-one, and either clear out the override (pressing Ctrl-Q or Ctrl-Space), or apply the appropriate style. While this approach is indeed “easy,” it can be time consuming depending on the number of style overrides.

You can also use Word’s find/replace feature to find style overrides and replace them with the correct formatting. For example, you can search for all 10-point text and replace it with the Default Character Font. (We’ll go into that technique in a future post. For the impatient, look at Search and Replace Specific Formatting (fonts, styles,etc) in Microsoft Word .)

Pasting with Ctrl-V and reformatting text is appropriate when you need to paste something more than just text from one document to another. For example, if you need to copy-paste rich text (such as graphics, tables, cross references, or anything else other than text), then this approach is typically less painful.

The other alternative is to paste the source document as plain text (press Alt+H V T) and then apply the styles paragraph by paragraph. This approach is appropriate when you know the keyboard shortcuts for applying styles, and if know how to navigate quickly through a document with the keyboard. Using this approach, however, erases any graphics tables, hyperlinks, or other rich text. You will have to reinsert those document features yourself.

Finding style overrides is easy and fast; replacing them with the correct styles is easy and slow. It’s best to altogether avoid fixing someone else’s formatting by giving all collaborators a copy of your template and telling them that if they apply style overrides, they get no dessert for a year.

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