Fun with MS Word

About 20 years ago, when I was working at the computer lab in the music school, I helped a friend with her dissertation. I did formatting, created musical examples, all of it. Fast forward 20 years, and she wants to turn her document into a book. Amazingly, I had kept all of the work I did for her 20 years ago.

The latest thing she sent me was 8 chapters that she wanted combined into a single document. Easy, right? Just copy and paste. Clippy, however, had other ideas. Apparently, each chapter was formatted to look right on the page, but each was a mishmash of different styles. So copy/paste made a disaster out of the formatting. I had to create a unified style for each part of the document (body text, block quotes, footnotes, etc) and then go through and assign each style a section at a time. I had to edit all 160 footnotes one at a time, because Word decided to do this, and changing the whole footnote style would eliminate italicized titles in the citations.


What could have and should have taken about 15 minutes turned into a four hour project. I then standardized all formatting for chapter headings, spacing, etc.

Once I was done, I called her and explained what I had done. Great! She was having the same problems, which is why she sent it to me. But then she said, “Okay, now that you have made the master document, can you make me a separate file for each chapter? But with all the formatting.”


For reasons, she says.


I will now wait for the email about how she spent all her time editing the separate chapters and now wants me to put them into the master document, rather than doing all the editing in the master. This is a recipe for disaster. On the bright side, I’m leaving for CA on Saturday for two weeks, and she is leaving for Germany for two months while I’m gone. She’s going to have to find somebody else to bail her out when it gets hosed.

And yes, she’s paying me for my time, but it’s time I’d rather be spending on other things.


/rant over

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