Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 23 (January 2011) – computer tips (pt1)

13 Sep

The twenty-third episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 24th January 2011 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first twenty-two episodes (see for earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters, Christmas, opportunities, songwriting, reading and auto/biographies. This episode had a focus on computer tips (with more to follow in ep.24).


More and more submissions are being accepted by email which requires a computer so I thought for a change I’d do a podcast on this topic. Even if you’re sending something by post, it will need to typed and double-sided which will involve a computer, word processor or at the very least a typewriter. You may know most, or some, of this already but I’ve used a computer since the pre-Windows and Wang days (I learned to type at secretarial college back in the 1980s on an electronic typewriter with carbon paper so we couldn’t cheat!) and I’m still learning. Equally some of you may only use them for the basics and would like to know a bit more, perhaps for fun or for time-saving. As most of you listening will likely have a Windows PC I’ve concentrated on tips for you but if you have an Apple Mac (I have both) then I will mention where the options differ. Shout if something isn’t clear or needs explaining further, or if there’s something I’ve not covered here that you’d like help on.

Hints & tips

  • If, like me, you regularly mistype particular words, AutoCorrect is a treasure. Where Spelling & Grammar (F7) will change a word once, AutoCorrect will change it for evermore. When you get the red underlining on an offending word, right-click with your mouse and you’ll see at the top of the list (menu) a selection of one or more alternate words. Selecting the correct word by a left-click mouse button will do what Spelling does and just replace it on that occasion but if you look down a bit further, you’ll see the AutoCorrect option. If you hover over that, you’ll see the same list of alternative words appear as a sub-menu to the side. If you then left-click on the word you want in that sub-menu your computer will change the word whenever you type it. I use this tool all the time but also heard it being mentioned by Danny Wallace in an iTunes ‘Meet the Author’ interview. He said his spelling and grammar was appalling so his computer was set up to correct everything but he came unstuck when working on friend’s computers – I guess that’s the joy of laptops; they can go wherever you do. As with computer, they do have a mind of their own and sometimes although you select the correct word, it will come up with something completely different (not sure why). To get round this just undo (either Ctrl/Z or click on the left curled arrow , or from memory Alt/E in earlier versions). Like the Word for Windows, Word for Mac’s AutoCorrect option will appear if you left-click on the offending word then right click and near the bottom, below the alternative words, you’ll see AutoCorrect, hover over that and a sub-menu (with the alternative words) will appear. Clicking on the relevant one of those rather than the earlier alternates will change it for ever more. There’s also an AutoCorrect option in Word’s Preferences menu.
  • If you’re in Word and the page you’re reading is too small, there should be a size guide at the bottom right-hand side of the screen. You can click on the ‘+’ button to increase the image (or ‘-’ to decrease) or drag the down arrow that appears between the – and + symbols. On a Mac it’s the cmd and – or + buttons.
  • Links to websites (hyperlinks) will usually appear blue and underlined in a Word document and you can press your Ctrl key and click (with your left mouse) to open your internet programme (e.g. Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox (I use the latter or Apple’s Safari)) and view the website page. However, you can change your options to cut out the necessity to use the Ctrl key. In Word 2007, you would do this by going to your ‘Office button’ (top-left of your screen) and click on the ‘Word Options’ at the bottom of the menus. Then click on ‘Advanced’ and de-tick ‘Use Ctrl + Click to follow hyperlink’ box. Now you can just left-click your mouse to go through this process. A simple but perhaps very useful change.
  • If you want to remove a hyperlink from a Word document, you can right-click your mouse on the word and select ‘Remove hyperlink’. This means that the text will remain but it will no longer be an active link; handy for copying in sections from websites like Wikipedia where it seems that every few words take you to other pages, interesting but sometimes unnecessary. On a Mac you click on ‘Edit hyperlink’ then ‘Remove’.
  • If you have a mixture of fonts and formats in your document and you want to make them more uniform you can do it a number of ways. For example if you have a mix of Times New Roman (favoured by editors / publishers) but also have some Arial or even a third font, highlight the document (Ctrl A) and go to your Home (Word 2007) or Edit (Word 2003 – from memory!) and select the font you want. The same goes for font sizes e.g. changing it from pitch 11 to 12 because it’s slightly too small. If you have a mixutre of font sizes but only want to increase by one or two sizes, highlight the text (Ctrl A) then click on the larger of the two A in the font sub-section of the Home menu (or the small ‘A’ to decrease) in Word 2007. These icons are the same on a Mac.
  • If you want to copy a section’s formatting with a mix of formats (e.g. indented/bulleted, bold, italics etc) to another section of text but don’t want to go through the rigmorol of highlighting it, bolding it, italicing it, indenting/bulleting it etc, simply highlight the correct formatting (to include the whole section (e.g whole paragraph), click on ‘Format Painter’ (the paintbrush icon in the Clipboard section of the Home menu) and you’ll notice that your cursor changes to a paintbrush then highlight the section of text you want to change and hey presto, it’ll change! Apart from the undo icon, this is probably one of my most-used features. Again this is the same on a Mac.
  • If you have Word 2007 or later your files may be saving as .docx rather than .doc. Whilst this doesn’t matter to anyone who has Word 2007 onwards, it does mean that anyone with earlier versions won’t be able to open your documents. It’s likely that whoever you are submitting to will have the 2007 or later but you are running the risk of emailing .docx to anyone who hasn’t. The easy way round this is to set your default saving settings to save all your Word documents as .doc. Do this by going to your office button (top-left) then down to Word Options then the Save menu then the first option is ‘files in this format’, change to Word 97-2003 by clicking on the down arrow and selecting it. On a Mac it’s in Word’s Preferences / Output and Sharing / Save option.

Computer shortcuts

There are numerous computer shortcuts which aren’t widely known. These include:

  • The Windows key (the one made up of four squares) and the ‘M’ pressed together will minimise (hide) all your current open programmes and take you back to your ‘desktop’ (the screen that first appears when you log in to your computer) – on a Mac it’s likely to be dragging your mouse to one of your screen’s corners depending on how it was set up;
  • Ctrl*/A (holding both keys down together) is useful if you want to highlight all your text; for instance if you want to copy/paste or move/past it to another document. This should work in any application (programme). *The ‘Ctrl’ key usually appears on the bottom-left and bottom-right of your keyboard and stands for ‘control’ (or on a Mac it’s the cmd button which stands for ‘command’;
  • Ctrl/F (or cmd/F) is a fantastic tool for finding a particular word within your document or spreadsheet. When the ‘Find and Replace’ box appears, type in the word you’re looking for and click on ‘find next’. Another option is to ‘find and replace’; for instance, if you want to rename your character from Mark to Robert you can press the Ctrl & F keys then click on the ‘replace’ box (second tab on the ‘Find’ box) then instead of finding ‘Mark’ and you manually replace the name with ‘Robert’, it’ll replace all the instances of mark and replace with Robert. Remember though that if you have a word like ‘marking’ the computer will have replaced it with ‘Roberting’! To be sure that it’s replacing correctly it may be wise to click on ‘replace next’ as you go along and you can decide whether you want to replace each one or not (if you don’t click on ‘find next’ instead and it’ll move on).
  • Another way of finding sections is to insert bookmarks. From Word 2007, go to the section of the document that you want to insert a bookmark then go to the ‘Insert’ top menu then click on ‘Bookmark’. Then enter the bookmark name (something you’d remember, no spaces) and click on ‘Add’. You can do this as many times as you like. To then find the passage, click on Insert / Bookmark, select the bookmark name and click on Go To. This is especially useful if the section contains regularly used words e.g. one of my bookmarks was to a section entitled ‘flash fiction’ – the bookmark was ‘flash’ – there only a few incidents of ‘flash’ in the document (which Ctrl/F or cmd/F would have gone to first) but there would have been plenty with the word fiction. You can delete bookmarks by highlighting the bookmark title and clicking delete. Be warned though, once you click on delete it goes, the computer won’t ask you if you’re sure, so you’d have to set it up again. What is useful however is that only the titles for the document you’re in will appear so you can set up as many as you like without having to worry about wading through loads of bookmarks that aren’t relevant to the document you’re in. The Mac’s bookmark option is at the bottom of the Insert toolbar menu.
  • Ctrl Z / cmd Z will undo whatever you did last, from typing to a simple action such as re-formatting text. You can also click on the undo icon (the backward curved arrow) at the top of your programme’s screen. You may notice a down arrow to the right of the undo icon. If you click on this, it brings up a list of the actions you’ve performed since you opened the document or saved last. If you want to undo a few actions, you can move your mouse down to the earliest action you want to undo. As you move your mouse down, the actions are highlighted.
  • To re-do or repeat something, press Ctrl Y / cmd Y or the  icon. It will not only re-do something that you’ve just undone in error but it will also repeat whatever you’ve just done.
  • If you have a few programmes running at the same time and want to swap between any of them, by holding the Alt button down and then pressing the Tab button (, above Caps Lock) – cmd and Tab on a Mac – once, you will be able to see a display of icons in the middle of your screen. With the Alt (cmd) button held down, keep pressing the Tab button until you reach the one you want and then let go. In Vista, you can use the cursor keys to navigate up and down if you have more than one row of open programmes – sadly this doesn’t work in XP which is what I’d reverted on my netbook to having had problems with Vista). You can however scroll backwards by holding the Alt and Shift keys down and pressing the Tab button (thanks to Steve K from Northampton, England for that tip!).

For a full list of keyboard shortcuts, the Writing Magazine suggests and provides further help on making shortcuts even more useful. For a Mac take a look at Apple’s page which not only lists them all but has a load of other related links at the bottom of the very long page!


Here I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts listed on my page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • to write a story about a character coming to terms (or not) with computer technology; and/or
  • write a story about a character either timewarping or waking up in modern times and has never seen a computer before.

The podcast concluded with News, On This Day in History and a 60-worder entitled ‘Flight of Fancy’:

  • The plane took flight. It looked so serene, gliding through the air like a proud goddess. Half-way through its journey, it looked to be in trouble. A strong gust of wind took it off its course. It faltered, veered side to side then lost control crashing to the ground, just short of the desk that it had been aimed at.

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at

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