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Best Practice

Format for ease of editing and to save time at deadline

Everyone knows the terrible feeling of "crunch" as a deadline draws near: making last minute edits, proofing content coherency, checking alignments and balance, consistent use of terms, correcting line breaks, etc. It is at this precise point in the development process when unexpected issues with formatting take their greatest toll. Badly formatted content can create problems and add a considerable amount of time when time is precious just before a deadline.

Solution? Spend time formatting content well on the front end so that edits close to deadline are a breeze.

Here are some situations to avoid:

  1. One of the biggest offenders is the use of "text tables" built with tabs instead of an actual table. Any last-minute editing (adding or removing text) can easily skew this precariously built/balanced "table" so that it is unusable. Time to recover: rebuilding the table in an actual table or removing and forcing new tabs, spaces, and page breaks – both take way more time than the edit should have taken. Always opt for the table at the beginning of your production process to editing time.
  2. Aligning text fields when the text fields have different attributes. The internal margin of the text box needs to be consistently set. If some are set at 0.1" and others are set at 0", alignment cannot be achieved. Solution? Format one text field and then duplicate that formatted field when you need another text field. Don't click on the "text box" button to add a text field. The internal margin attributes will likely be different. When using free-floating text, use an internal margin of 0 on all sides (top, bottom, right, left).
  3. Aligning inconsistently sized graphic fields used as a set. When setting up a set of graphic fields up for the first time, identify the field that has the most content and draw/develop that one. Then copy it as many times as you need and replace the content. If resizing needs to take place due to adding subtracting text or other content, resize them all. Alignment will not be a problem and small amounts of resizing generally does not disrupt the integrity of the entire slide.
  4. Use tabs within tables to align numbers. Don't use spaces. Getting numbers to align on a decimal point is easy if the decimal tab is used consistently. Using spaces to achieve alignment creates problems if the numbers change. Find the largest number in the column and set the decimal tab so that it accommodates all of those numbers. Then place insertion point at the beginning of the number and insert a ctrl-tab and the number will right align on the decimal tab. Then just highlight that correctly formatted cell and click on the format painter button. Then select all of the cells in that column and the format painter will apply the decimal tab to all.
  5. Set the text anchor point correctly: if the text is bottom aligned, for example, set the anchor point so that the text builds from the bottom. This is such a seemingly minor issue, but when editing shortly before a deadline, adding text and then realigning is double the work. Set the text anchor point in the text box area of the format object/placeholder menu so that the text is either top aligned, middle aligned, or bottom aligned.
  6. Get into the habit of inputting text so that numbers and units, two-name places, and proper names stay together. Instead of hitting the space bar, hold the alt key down and key 0160 between the two words you wish to bind together. These words will not split during the course of editing and it will save proofing and correction time close to deadline.

These are just a few time eaters and ways to avoid them. Look at what takes you the most time to edit at the end of your production process and determine if there is a way to format them differently when creating them. Always spend your time laying things out correctly so that you will save editing time close to deadline.