Using Word Better: Beyond Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V

Get ready. You’re about to have the veil of mediocrity lifted from your eyes. You’ve been using Microsoft Word inefficiently for copying and pasting — until now. Ctrl+F3 will change your world.

If you’re already using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste, respectively, then you’re on the right track. These kinds of simple shortcuts save you and your mouse lots of time by circumventing having to navigate to the Copy and Paste buttons to do these actions manually.

There’s more to copying and pasting than simple Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V! Sometimes you need to move a lot of stuff around your document at once. Let’s say you need to get half a dozen paragraphs, graphics, and tables that are currently scattered throughout your document moved quickly to the end of the document. You’ve got a deadline and you don’t want to lose any formatting by opening a separate document to place each copied item while you go back for others.

Try this: Highlight a sentence or paragraph, and then press Ctrl+F3. In a separate place in the document, do the same thing with a different sentence or paragraph. Add a third item! And a fourth!

When you’ve pulled out all of the pieces that you want to move, place your cursor where these items should wind up, and press Ctrl+Shift+F3. And like magic, all four (or more) items that you’d previously pulled out of the document appear here.

You can think of Ctrl+F3 as your imaginary extended clipboard that, like a real clipboard, you can keep adding scraps and passages to until you’re ready to put them in their final position.

Using Word Better: Quickly Change All-Caps to Camel Case

If you’re like me, you’ve probably hit the caps-lock key while feverishly writing — and before you know it, you have an entire paragraph of all-caps shouting back at you from the page. Who wants to go back and retype that whole passage with caps-lock off? Not me! And not you either, if you’re at all interested in saving time.

Microsoft Word saves the day! Simply highlight the offending shouty text and press Shift + F3. This keyboard shortcut cycles through all lowercase to camelcase (normal sentence capitalization) before returning to all uppercase text.

This shortcut won’t preserve any correct capitalization, like proper nouns, but fixing those is less time-consuming than rewriting an entire sentence or paragraph. Now, shout away if you want, since you know you can quickly return to an indoor voice with Shift+F3.

Using InDesign Better: Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes in Adobe InDesign

Once you know how to effectively use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes in your writing, it’s time to make sure you can place the right punctuation quickly and easily.

We’ve discussed how to bend Microsoft Word to your whims by either using auto-correct or outsmarting it with custom keyboard shortcuts. Now we’ll turn our attention to the other big name in document creation: Adobe InDesign.

Adobe InDesign has a couple ways to insert en dashes and em dashes right where you want them. Like Word’s Insert → Symbol action, InDesign allows you to use the menu to navigate to the right dash.

Click on Type, and toward the bottom of the drop-down menu, hover over Insert Special Character. From the list that appears to the side, hover over Hyphens and Dashes, and click on either Em Dash or En Dash. (Remember that en dashes always have spaces around them and that em dashes never do.)

If you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts to insert these types of symbols and characters, then you’re in luck. InDesign already features intuitive shortcuts for en dashes and em dashes that can be used on any keyboard with a hyphen key, unlike the built-in shortcuts in Word that require a number pad to do correctly.

  • En dash: Alt + – (hyphen)
  • Em dash: Shift + Alt + –

InDesign also has these shortcuts included on the menu when you use that method to insert these characters, so you can always remember them!


Using Word Better: Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes in Microsoft Word

Now that you know how to use hyphens and dashes correctly in your writing, you can benefit from quick tips for getting the right punctuation in your Microsoft Word documents.

You probably already know that, without having to make any special changes, Microsoft Word already auto-corrects hyphens to en dashes and em dashes based on what you’re typing.

When you put spaces around a hyphen (or when you type a word, a space, a hyphen, a space, and another word), you get an en dash:

Word En Dash

And when you type two hyphens without spaces around them (or word, hyphen, hyphen, word), you wind up with an em dash:


Word also has a keyboard shortcut assigned each dash that use the minus key on the number pad:

  • En dash: Ctrl + Num –
  • Em dash: Alt + Ctrl + Num –

These shortcuts are practically useless on keyboards that don’t have number pads, like many laptops. (And these shortcuts are also a little unwieldy.) To assign a new, easier, and more natural shortcut to each dash symbol, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Insert, then click on Symbol.
  2. Click on More Symbols, then click on the “Special Characters” tab.
  3. Click on Em Dash to highlight it and then click on Shortcut Key…
  4. Place your cursor in the “Press new shortcut key” field.
  5. Type in your new shortcut, such as Alt + M.
  6. Click on Assign, then click on Close.
  7. Do the same process with the En Dash symbol.

Once you’ve assigned your new shortcuts, you can use either the number pad shortcut or your new shortcut to place dashes wherever you want them, without relying on Word’s auto-correct.

Using Dashes and Hyphens in Your Writing

Maybe you’ve used hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes interchangeably in your writing. Or maybe you’re seeing some inconsistencies as you edit someone else’s writing, and you need some clarification. You’re in the right place to learn how to use dashes and hyphens correctly in your writing!

Let’s discuss what hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes are, as well as what they’re used for.

Hyphens (-) are used to combine words or to split a word across a line.

Our high-quality service ensures your project will be maintained through the contract term.

En dashes (–) are often used to replace the word “to” or “through” in dates or ranges. The en dash can also be used to separate the title of an item from its description in a list. This punctuation always has a space on either side of it.

Take a look at pages 27 – 35 for the major changes.

Software – Our firm uses the most cutting-edge software applications available to manage your project from start to finish.

Em dashes (—) are used to set off part of a sentence from the rest, often for emphasis. This mark never has spaces around it.

Colorado’s state department of transportation—which is known for its innovation in using alternative approaches to major projects—is currently considering pursuing design-build for the reconstruction.

Now you’re equipped to use these important punctuation marks in your writing and editing work. Stay tuned for tips on using these marks correctly in the two most common document creation applications, Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign.

Using Word Better: Adding Random Text Filler to Your Document Quickly

Adding filler text is an easy way to make sure that your Microsoft Word document is formatted effectively. But sometimes finding that filler text takes more time than it’s worth. Word has a little-known feature that allows you to quickly and easily add filler text to your document without having to borrow from other documents or search online.

Simply type “=rand()” into your Word document (without the quotation marks, of course) and press enter. And now you have a few paragraphs of random filler text!

If you know how much filler text you need, you can insert number values into the parenthesis.


The first number value represents the number of paragraphs to be inserted, and the second number value represents the number of sentences each paragraph should contain.

Word pulls this random filler text from the Help documents, which can be useful if you prefer to look at English text. However, if you or your eventual reviewers will be distracted by the English filler text pulled from Help, then you should try out the “lorem ipsum” filler text trick instead!

Using Lorem Ipsum Effectively

As you know from the last post, using Microsoft Word’s “=lorem()” function adds lorem ipsum filler text to any document easily and quickly. Using lorem ipsum filler text in documents as they’re being designed seems like a value-neutral choice: it allows readers to see how text will flow and what a typeface looks like in context without having to wait for drafted content. Win-win, right?

Not so fast! If you check out #loremipsum on Twitter, you’ll find that the decision to use lorem ipsum filler text during the design stages of a textual product is more complex than it seems. Some people believe that lorem ipsum causes more problems than it solves, and everyone should avoid using it.

Arguments against using lorem ipsum generally fall into two categories:

  1. Lorem ipsum is confusing and hard to read.
  2. Lorem ipsum allows designers to ignore the role that content plays in design choices.

For the first argument, well, the point of filler text is generally that it doesn’t need to be read and should be ignored. Anyone who’s trying to read any kind of filler text for meaning is going to be disappointed. If the goal of filler text is to illustrate what a page will look like once it has content, then lorem ipsum’s lack of readability isn’t a bug but a feature. (I do, however, empathize with this argument. One of my favorite comments in review sessions for proposals that have a bit of lorem ipsum to indicate that content is missing from a section is, “What is this? Greek? This will need to be rewritten.” It always makes me chuckle!)

Still, if lorem ipsum is alienating for reviewers because it’s Latin and they can’t understand it, there are plenty of other options for filler text before content enters the picture. One option is a feature of Microsoft Word that automatically inserts text from the Help documents — check back for a post about this feature next week.

Or there are other “ipsums” out there that use words from the English language. If English nonsense is more your (or your project owner’s) style, then you might try Bacon Ipsum, Whedon Ipsum, or one of a hundred other ipsums on this site.

As for the second argument against lorem ipsum — that it allows document designers to ignore the needs of content — that one’s a little more compelling. But it’s important to consider context here, too. A website designer or user interface designer who doesn’t get any content-related information from her client is more likely to view content as divorced from design. The two are strongly related, and a client’s content needs — tabs, sections, callouts, and so forth — should absolutely influence the design and layout of a text.

In contrast, designing a proposal template will necessarily involve reviewing a request for proposal or previously submitted proposals to make sure that all the common sections are accounted for. For example, the Colorado Department of Transportation consultant proposal process uses a standard layout: a two-page cover letter, a five-page statement of interest, a four-page work plan, a five-page optional/miscellaneous section, and a commendation section. Each of these sections needs to discuss particular categories of information, which can be turned into headings and subheadings easily. Creating a CDOT-compliant proposal template necessarily considers content requirements and constraints.

But in the early stages of template design — especially if you’re creating a proposal template for a project that hasn’t even been announced yet — the specific content isn’t typically available. In proposal writing, text will arrive, and the final look of a proposal will always depend on exactly what kind of content is delivered. In the meantime, lorem ipsum is an easy way to show what a proposal and its parts will look like without demanding content that simply cannot be drafted yet.

So, in the end, I agree that content matters when it comes to document design. But I don’t think lorem ipsum is the problem; through no fault of its own, it sometimes gets used as a way to gloss over poor design choices that don’t actually attend to content needs.

Using Word Better: Adding “Lorem Ipsum” Filler to Your Document Instantly

Sometimes you need to add filler text to your Microsoft Word document to see how your formatting plays out or how text flows from one page to the next. If you’re like me, then you’ve probably copied and pasted the “lorem ipsum” text from the Web to your document.

There’s an easier way!

In Word, simply type “=lorem()” into your document (minus the quotation marks, of course) and press enter. Voila! You just inserted a few passages of lorem ipsum into your document in nine keystrokes.


If you know how much lorem ipsum text you want inserted, you can insert number values into the parenthesis: =lorem(x,y). The first number value represents the number of paragraphs to be inserted, and the second number value represents the number of sentences each paragraph should contain.

Entering “=lorem(5,9)” yields this:


Look at all that sexy lorem ipsum! This simple Word trick is so easy and fast, you’ll never Google “lorem ipsum” again.

Setting Up Master Pages in InDesign Proposals

Once you’ve set up your document, your next important step is designing master pages.

In InDesign, you control headers, footers, and any repeated page matter such as sidebars or watermarks with master pages. Once you have your master pages set up, you can simply add pages to your document and drag and drop master pages to apply them to each page. Just as with the initial set-up of the document, spending time on the front end will save you time on the back end.

For this tutorial and a few others in this series, we’ll use the (anonymized) template of a proposal from a diner restaurant to LAX regarding opening a location in Terminal 4. Peak Composition was recently hired to develop this template design for a Los Angeles-based diner’s proposal writer for this pursuit, so these templates have been developed to meet a real RFP to connect real vendors and clients.

Step 1: RFP Review Redux

You should already have a good idea of what’s in the RFP and what requirements your proposal will need to meet in order to be compliant. But you should probably check out the RFP one more time as you set up your master pages and design the headers and footers for the body of your proposal.

Things to look for in the RFP:

  • Information to be included: Are there rules on what should or should not appear in headers and footers? What is the title of the proposal? Are there required sections? What are the names of the sections? Make sure you use the exact same wording as what’s in the RFP on your proposal — taking liberties with the name of the proposal or its sections can take your proposal out of the running if reviewers find the inconsistencies enough to believe you didn’t (or can’t!) follow instructions.
  • Font and margin requirements: Does the RFP require a specific font, like Times New Roman? How wide do margins need to be? These elements may come into play as you set up headers and footers, so having this information handy can make sure the writing and proposal review processes go smoothly later on.
  • Formatting requirements: Will the proposal be submitted electronically in PDF format? Printed? If printed, should pages be printed on one side or double-sided? What line spacing requirements are in the RFP? Each of these constraints will play a role in how you set up your master pages in InDesign.
  • Client needs and branding goals: While these considerations overlap with overall design principles for effective proposals — which we’ll cover in a later tutorial — they can be part of your initial RFP review as you’re preparing to set up master pages. Are there requirements about the use of logos, colors, or other issues that may affect your headers and footers? Does your organization have general branding or marketing goals that you need to keep in mind as you design master pages? Add these items to your list of issues to consider in your master page design.

Step 2: Getting InDesign Ready to Use

Once you set up a document (see this post for more on initial set-up in InDesign), you can begin putting together your master pages.

In InDesign, you can have as many master pages as you find to be useful. For our purposes in this tutorial, we’ll be creating a two-page master spread for a document that will be printed on facing pages. (This is essentially the same as creating different headers and footers for odd and even pages, as you might do in Word.) This decision is rooted in the RFP, which requires a printed proposal (as well as a PDF of the proposal submitted on CD-ROM) printed double-sided. Even if you’ll be creating one set of headers and footers for a proposal that will be printed single-sided, you can still follow this tutorial, but you can skip over the parts related to making the second page/set align with the first.

Let’s do a couple things with InDesign to make it as usable and accessible as possible before we move forward.

First, set up your tools sidebar in InDesign so you have easy access to your most used tools. Go to Window and click on Pages. If clicking on Pages makes a little Pages window appear on top of your document in InDesign, go ahead and click at the top of the Pages window and drag the window to the right sidebar. Drop the Pages window wherever you like in the black sidebar. I like to have mine at the top of the sidebar, but it doesn’t matter where it goes. Once the Pages window is docked in the sidebar, you can simply click on the button to open up the Pages window and see the full set of master pages and document pages in your document.

InDesign dock area
The dock area of InDesign holds various Windows (tools) for easy access.

Second, now that you have your Pages window in this easy-to-access location, you can configure how the thumbnails of your pages and master pages appear. With the Pages window open, right click on the master pages field and select “Panel Options…” From this dialogue box, you can choose how your master pages appear in the Pages window. You could arrange them vertically as they are here, or horizontally; you could increase or decrease the size of the thumbnails; and you could opt to put the master pages panel at the bottom of the Pages window rather than the top.

Pages in InDesign
With the Pages window open, you can manage master pages, document pages, and how thumbnails for pages appear.

If you right click in the pages panel of the Pages window and hover over “View Pages,” you can also determine how pages in your document appear in the Pages window: horizontally, vertically, or customized.

Step 3: Creating Master Pages

To make sure you can create a two-page master spread (or set of pages), make sure you have “Facing Pages” checked in the Document Setup dialogue (File –> Document Setup).

To create a new master page, open the Pages window, right click in the master pages panel, and click on “New Master…” With this dialogue box, you can choose the prefix that will identify where the new master page is applied in your document — the prefix will appear on the thumbnails in the page panel in the Pages window. You can also rename the master page to indicate what it will be used for. To reuse elements of another master, choose that master in the “Based on Master” dropdown list. Enter “2” into the “Number of Pages” field to make a two-page master, and keep the Page Size on Letter with portrait orientation. When you’re done making changes, click on OK — you’ll see the new master spread show up in the master panel on the Pages window.

Creating new master pages in InDesign
The New Master page dialogue box gives you options for ever master page you create, from how many pages in the spread to the size of the sheets.

You now have a master page! Up next, we’ll discuss designing the master spread to use in your proposal.

Setting Up a New Proposal in InDesign

Setting Up InDesign Documents for Proposals

One of the most surprising challenges when it comes to starting a proposal is getting the template right. Your proposal template should be simple, clean, and responsive.

But first, you need to set up a document in InDesign. Here are the basics for quickly setting up a document for your proposal using Adobe InDesign.

Step 1: Review the RFP

Check out the RFP for any formatting requirements.

  • How wide should the margins be?
  • What size and type of font do you need to use?
  • What line spacing is required?
  • What sections and headings will be included?
  • How many types of subheadings will you need to define?
  • What kinds of tables, graphics, charts, and diagrams will be necessary?
  • Will you need to plan for any large-format pages, like 11″ x 17″ sheets?
  • Will you need to print on both sides of the sheet, or just one side?
  • How many columns will most pages need?

Once you know what your document must do to be compliant with the RFP, you can set up your basic document in InDesign.

New Document Set-up in InDesign
Set up your proposal so that it matches the RFP right from the start.

Step 2: Set Up the Document

In InDesign, select File –> New… –> Document.

For documents that will be printed, leave “Intent” on “Print.”

If you know how many pages you’ll eventually have in the proposal, you can enter that number in the “Number of Pages” field.

If your document is not the first section in the complete proposal, you can enter a starting page number in the “Start Page #” field here.

If you need to print the document on both sides, keep “Facing Pages” selected. If your document will be printed single-sided, uncheck the box next to “Facing Pages.”

Go ahead and select “Primary Text Frame” to reduce the amount of work you’ll need to put into creating and deleting pages in your document after you create Master Pages. We’ll discuss this aspect of document creation in more detail shortly.

In the Page Design dropdown menu, select the correct page size. Unless you’re working with non-standard page sizes, you’ll probably just leave this on “Letter,” which should automatically show at 8.5 in wide and 11 in high.

Similarly, unless you know you’ll need your pages to appear in landscape orientation, you’ll likely just leave Orientation in portrait mode (with the figure standing up rather than laying down).

If your entire proposal will have two or three columns, you can change the number here to make that happen. The Gutter refers to the space between the columns — if you’re not sure how much you’ll need, you can leave this as-is and change it later on if it needs to be altered.

Likewise, you can define your margins on this New Document interactive window. Leaving the chain symbol in the center of the Margins section selected/unbroken means that any changes you make to one margin measurement will automatically apply to the rest of the margins. If you would like each margin measurement to be different, deselect/break the chain symbol and make changes to each field.

We’ll cover the Bleed and Slug section of New Document creation in a later tutorial.

To make sure the page looks how you want, check the Preview box and make any necessary changes. Once it looks right, click on “OK” — and you have a new document!

Next up, we’ll discuss creating Master Pages and maintaining a simple, readable design for your entire proposal, no matter who you’re writing for or what the requirements are.