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Editor's Notes #65, Using Word's Outline View
January 16, 2009

Anyone who takes no delight in the firm outline of an object,
or in its essential character,
has no artistic sense. . . .
He cannot even be nourished by Art.
Like Ephraim, he feeds upon the East wind,
which has no boundaries.

-- Vance Palmer

In this issue:

1. Using Word's Outline View
2. A Good Writing Site
3. Tickled My Funnybone

1. Using Word's Outline View
If you haven't used Word's Outline View, I strongly suggest you take it for a test drive.

Using Outline View works best if you start with it instead of starting with another view and imposing an outline later. You can alter an outline at any time, but the time to start is at the beginning.

One other word of caution: leave the settings as they are to begin with. Fussing with the look of a piece before you get the words right is a waste of time. Simply open a new Word document, go to View in the menu bar, and select Outline.

Go back to View and select Toolbars>Outlining. The outlining toolbar gives you control over the hierarchy of your outline.

Just for practice, go to your document and type in Chapter 1, hit return type in Chapter 2, hit return, and type in Chapter 3.

Now go back to Chapter 1. Hit the return key. Type in "Pros of Outline View." Hit return. Type in "Cons of Outline View." You will notice that the type looks exactly the same as the chapter headings. To change that, and make a subheading, go to the outlining toolbar where there are two green arrows. Click on the arrow that points to the right. If you hover the mouse over the green arrow, it will say, "Demote." Click that arrow. Click the Pros title and use the Demote arrow to turn the Pros into a subheading as well.

This is enough for our purposes, but you could continue to add chapter titles, subheadings, and sub-subheadings indefinitely.

When you are ready to add some text, go back to Pros of Outline View Body Text. Type in This is so much fun I can hardly stand it. On top of that, this outline view will help me to organize my thinking.

Next, go to Cons of Outline View, hit Return, click on the blue arrow in the outlining toolbar, and type in Cons? What cons? This will help me in so many ways, I can't think of a single con!

Now here comes one of the real pleasures of using Outline View. Let's say that we decide it would be better to list the cons first. Notice that in front of each chapter title or subheading there is a small icon. If you want to move a section, simply click on the icon for that section. You will notice that all the text for that section is selected. Drag the icon to its new place, and the whole section follows. In this case, all the material for the cons will be above the material for the pros if you simply drag the icon for the cons into place above the subheading Pros of Outline View.

I don't find the pink arrows (Move Up and Move Down) particularly useful. They do move selected text up and down the manuscript, but I usually want to move a whole section at once.

If you want to view only your outline, you can do that, too. To the right of the pink arrows are a plus and minus sign. They control what you see. If you click the minus arrow, the text disappears. Click the plus arrow to bring it back. If you click the minus arrow twice, you will see only the chapter headings. I find this feature really helpful, especially with a long manuscript. You can move a whole chapter simply by dragging its icon in the collapsed outline. When you expand the view with the plus sign, everything will be exactly where you want it. All spacing will be correct and you don't have to worry about stray punctuation marks or letters landing in the wrong paragraph as they can if you simply copy and paste.

It's a good idea to do your writing in Outline View, and format later -- when the text is perfect -- in whichever view you prefer.


2. A Good Writing Site
If you are looking for information on writing short stories, I suggest you take a look at


3. Tickled My Funnybone
"Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half"


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