3 Microsoft Word template decisions to avoid

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Microsoft Word templates can be an incredible productivity tool. Templates ensure a consistent look and feel across your documents. Using a template frees you up to focus on other things about the document you are writing.

Yet, Microsoft Word templates can also be a productivity sinkhole if you aren’t careful. If you don’t put some thought into how you manage and use the template.

Here are three Microsoft Word Templates you should always avoid:

  • Don’t deviate from default style names. It’s OK to create templates from scratch but for styles like headings and others that are common across documents, I recommend not deviating from the default style names. It is ok to modify them to your heart’s content, but deviating from default style names can pose problems later when you want to update the document template like during a rebranding. Sticking to default style names whenever possible means when attaching a new template. Sticking to such style names is also helpful because they are what people are used to working with if they pay attention to style names at all.
  • Don’t forget to attach the template. Working as a technical writer puts me into contact with a lot of legacy Microsoft Office documents — often times with no sign of the original template (*.dot) — raising a number of sundry issues like styles “shifting in flight” thus appearing differently on different user’s PCs. When working with clients encountering MS Word document issues, no template attached to the document is almost always on the list.
  • Don’t “Iron Man” your document styles. One of the marks of a poorly planned document template is missing styles. causing users to make modifications to document styles manually (otherwise known as “iron man”). Such modifications can introduce inconsistencies plus stray styles into your MS Word template that will haunt writers who inherit the document for generations to come. The advice I often give to clients about Word templates is to keep them simple especially if the organization doesn’t have a full time writer dedicated to the project or the documents are being shipped around to non-writers a lot.

What are your tips for managing and using MS Word templates? Share them below.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

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