Last week, as we concluded Function I of Punctuation Coding, we realized an obvious weakness that many students have: keyboarding skills.
In years past, high schools offered keyboarding classes. As more students had access to computers, those classes shifted to the middle school. They are now gradually disappearing–while I think students need keyboarding skills more than ever.
While tablets and smartphones have their places, the laptop and desktop computers are still necessities in the business world. Tablets may get for more sophisticated; smartphones definitely will. However, for long documents, for presentations, nothing is better than the laptop computer for mobility and ease of work.
And to use the laptop well, keyboarding skills are needed. So, here it is ~
Introduction to Basic Keyboarding Information
Serious work requires a serious computer. While smartphones can use Google Docs and stripped-down applications for Word or Powerpoint or similar programs, the best work should be presented using a laptop or a desktop computer to generate the document or file.
School is serious.
Treat your work with the seriousness that it deserves. What is learned in 12+ years of school serves as the foundation for over 50 years of your life.
Most word processing programs—whether PC or Mac, whether from the realm of Microsoft or Apple or Google Docs—have default set-ups for paragraph indents, line spacing, alignment, and margins and more.
Much of what I am going to mention now may be obvious to you, but bear with me for those who are familiar with smartphone apps but not necessarily the stronger apps for laptops and desktop computers.
Google and Apple usually follow what Microsoft has designated. While differences do show up, similarities abound. With Microsoft’s Office programs so ubiquitous, MS Word will guide this information.
The series of options across the top of the application screen, whether using a word processor or a slides application or a spreadsheet, is called the ribbon.
The Ribbon opens up Option Boxes.
The Clipboard box needs only a glance. Clicking the little corner arrow just opens up a window showing your last copied item.
The Font dropdown box allows you to select the size and shape of your letters as well as the ways that you can emphasize certain words, either through B for bold or I for italics or U for underline.
Digression: A Word on Fonts
Most apps default to Arial or Courier fonts, which most people do not want to use. Many people (such as professors in college) might specify a primary font such as Times New Roman.
TNR is preferred over the two defaults: Arial is lacks serif, the little extra line that helps our eyes read the letter. Courier is more widely spaced than TNR, but that spacing means that it unnecessarily takes up extra room on the line.
For many years, I used Comic Sans, Palatino or Papyrus, Century or Georgia, or Lucida Calligraphy or Vivaldi, experimenting with different fonts for different purposes. I prefer Comic Sans to TNR. An old favorite, Black Chancery, which I once used to title documents, is no longer available in Microsoft products.
Many fonts have particular purposes. Fonts with all caps are only intended for Headlines (Heading 1) and should never be used for body text (Normal).
Fonts are downloadable (many times for free or a low cost) from various web sources. Use only TrueType fonts. You will need to download then unzip and then extract the file for it to be used. The download can remain located in your download file in the File Explorer.
Selecting a font can be a distraction. Students usually get excited about selecting font types and wish to try each one.
The only rule for fonts is to select something that is easily read. The font should be uniform throughout the document: for example, use only one font for body text (considered “Normal”). If you wish, you can change a font for each different Style: Normal, Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 and so on can all be different fonts. However, changing fonts can clutter the page for our eyes, especially when headings have different sizes.
A Word on Font Size
Font size is also important, selected through the dropdown beside it. Most documents use TNR in font size 12 for body text, size 14 for headings, and size 16 for chapter titles. These are good increments for Word applications.
For presentation apps, when laying out a slide, the defaults for font types ramp up the font size. Slides are intended to be projected; therefore, the font size must be larger. Should you decide to tinker, then most desktop publishing rules are to work in similar increments, such as 6—for example, the main title might be set at 42, then the main heading will be 36, subheadings at 30, and body text at 24.
Options are also available to color and highlight words. You may tinker with the word art options later.
The Paragraph option sets choices for text placement. Selections for placement are alignment: left, center, right, and justification.
You can choose to place bullet points or numbered points separate from the body text. You can shift bulleted items to the left or right. That bulleted list can be sorted A to Z.
You can click the paragraph symbol and see all formatting options for a text, including page breaks and tabs.
If you insert a table, you can alter the settings for the table’s lines.
Styles are pre-configured formatting options. Notice that different types of Styles are offered. The Normal Style works for body text. Heading 1 and Heading 2 and so on can be designated for chapter titles, main headings, subheadings and more.
You can access each style’s option by right-clicking the particular one and selecting “modify”. Here you make changes to font type and size and color, changes to placement on the page, and more. Caution: Keep your modifications to the document you are working on.
If you are going to generate a Table of Contents for your document, then using Styles makes your life simple. An automatic TOC can be accessed from References in the Ribbon.
The Editing Box is also a Quick Find. If you need to locate an unusual word, click “find” and type in your search. All options will show up in a Navigation pop-up window. Click “results” in the pop-up to see every use of that unusual word.
The Navigation pop-up allows a quick overview of the sections of your document when you select “Headings”. Click a section, and the document will jump to it. The “Pages” option in Navigation gives you a small preview of each page.
Back in the ribbon Editing box, “replace” allows individual or wholesale changes. If you notice that you have misspelled a word in a particular way several times (“esle” for “else”), this function will find and fix the error. Type in the word you need to find, type in the change you want, then select either “replace” or “replace all”. “Select” is available for objects rather than words.
This portion of the Ribbon offers numerous options that can be confusing. For now, on the far left, notice “Page Break” in Pages. This function stops one page and jumps to the next. Now when you insert information, your chapter or section headings that you wanted at the top of a page or your Works Cited page will maintain position. Without “Page Break”, when you back into a document, the text will constantly shift down and down and down.
The Tables box allows you to draw a table with a specific number of columns and rows or use a default template. Tables are helpful charts for basic lists.
Illustrations, Add–ins Media, and Links have obvious functions. The Comments box gives you something like a sticky note attached to a specific portion of the text.
Header & Footer create information, including page numbers, that will appear without change on every page of the document. Usually, your last name followed by the document’s title and the page number will be inserted with the header. The full heading for the document (name, course, instructor, date) will only appear on the first page or the title page. The footer is usually reserved when only page numbers are used.
The Text box was formerly located with drawing objects (replaced by Illustrations) and now has its own location, still in the Insert Ribbon. Symbols should need no explanation.
Skipping to Layout in the Ribbon, we find adjustments for the whole document.
In Page Setup, margins can be changed, with several options offered as well as custom margins available. Orientation needs no explanation. Size, however, does. When you change the size of the document, you are working with the size of the paper that you will print on. Most printer paper is either letter or legal sized. If you are working with photographic paper, this area allows you to change to the appropriate size.
Columns can be dangerous. Long lists are often better when broken into two or three columns. However, before and after the column, you may wish to insert a Section Break, which you can find right beside Columns at “Breaks”. Otherwise, the column will control the body text that follows.
Here is also Indent and Spacing, yet I work with them in the Paragraph box of the Home option on the Ribbon. I find that box allows me to work with more elements at once rather than jumping from one place to another to deal with all of those elements.
If you have added drawn objects (shapes, text boxes, illustrations, etc.), then you may need to work with the Arrange box. The most important element is “Wrap Text”, which allows you to wrap the text around the inserted object or set the object off. If you have a lot of small drawn objects that you want to group, then this is the location of that option, as well as align and rotate and move the object forward and back (as if they were layers over each other).
References, Mailings, & Review
In References is an automatic Table of Contents box as well as a Footnotes box. Footnotes are returning to modern documents after a multi-decade loss to Endnotes and the Bibliography page (or Works Cited page).
As software programs (applications) become more sophisticated, they help students with the tricky research-required citations that many in the past would flub. The MS Word Citations & Bibliography tool box is touted by many students as better than online services.
Mailings is primarily used with Bulk Mailings, such as 25 or more people.
Review should often draw your attention. First is the Proofing box with its spelling and grammar checker, more and more sophisticated with each iteration—but still not as good as a human.
Select Read Aloud, select a word, and in the pop-up window, click the arrow. The sophisticated reader will continue from the selected word to the end. You can change the type of reader in the settings of the pop-up.
The benefit of the Tracking box is not obvious until you share a document with someone who will alter it then send it back which often happens in the business world. You can then accept or reject that person’s changes. In Google Docs, two or more people can simultaneously work on a document, with real-time changes occurring. In school settings, the teacher can view which student made what corrections.
I used to ignore the Ribbon’s View except to find the Ruler.
However, changes have drawn me to it. Seeing your document pages side by side helps when you will publish it (Page Movement). If you work with drawing objects and the like, the gridlines in Show help you see the workable margins you must maintain.
I don’t use the Zoom or Window sections. To enlarge or reduce the screen, I use the slidebar tool at the bottom right of my screen. As for switching between documents, I find it easier and less confusing to access the Taskbar across the bottom of the laptop screen.
Last of all is the first item in the Ribbon, all the way to the left: File. Beyond basic functions like Save and Print is the all-important Save as. If you want to keep various versions of your document, use Save as to change the name of the document to reflect the newest version while keeping the original document: for example, Punx Draft 2.
The other important element is Options. Leave most of this information alone; tinkering is unnecessary. However, in Proofing, ensure that the box for “Show Readability Statistics” is checked. When you run the spelling and grammar checker (located in Review), at the end of the check, a window will pop-up, giving you counts and averages. More importantly, you will see the percentage of passive sentences (a number that should be low) and Flesch Reading Ease and Grade Level.
Readability Statistics in File > Options
The Flesch Reading Ease and Grade Level information helps you learn to write to a particular audience. Informative documents, which people use to learn information, should be easy to read and at one or two grade levels below their current level of education.
Reading for entertainment should be at grade level.
Here’s some background on the Flesch Reading Ease, considered the world standard.
Under File > Options, Readability Statistics is a wonderful gadget that gives the Reading Ease for any document.
Most newspapers and magazines in the United States are written at sixth or ninth grade levels. Fiction documents usually match newspapers and magazines as to reading level.
Consider these authors:
- Cormac McCarthy writes at a 5th grade level. One of his best known works is No Country for Old Men.
- J.K. Rowling = The first Harry Potter book in the series is close to a 6th grade level. The last is close to an 8th grade level.
- Stephen King = primarily writes on a 6th grade level.
- J.R.R. Tolkien = The great Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as my favorite The Hobbit are all written on a 6th grade level..
- John Grisham = 6th.
- Leo Tolstoy = War and Peace is written on an 8th grade level.
- Michael Crichton = of Jurassic Park fame writes close to a 9th grade level. Crichton bases his books on scientific issues like cloning or sabotage photographic evidence or virtual reality. The scientific terms and concepts raise the difficulty level of his writing. Apart from those, however, he is extremely readable.
- The Affordable Care Act = Along with many government documents, such as the Internal Revenue Service brochure and the Medicare brochure that I helped my mother wish, the ACA and others are written on a 12th grade reading level.
- KJV Bible = Just considering the reading level of the KJV Bible can cause controversy. Several websites list a variety of reading levels, from the lowest at a grade level of 5.8 to a high of 12th grade. However, if you’ve ever read through the Bible, you know that many of the books are easier to read than others: Just compare the easily accessible Ecclesiastes to the difficulties of Isaiah.
I don’t remember who first said the following wonderful statement, and the internet failed my search. (Surprise! The internet does NOT have all the answers.)
“It doesn’t take a genius to make something hard. It takes a genius to make something easy.”
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a wonderfully rich allegory with symbolic dreams and lyrical passages . . . and is written at a 4th grade reading level.
Quality of writing is not in “big words”. Obfuscation obscures; clarity reveals.
Quality of writing is in approach, perspective, and craft. Remember, we are in writing to communicate.
The next time you wonder if you are “showing off” rather than communicating, find out by checking the reading level.
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We have more information that introduces you to keyboarding basics. Come back next week!