Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Avoid Common Mistakes Many Word Users Make – Part 2

Author: Navin Kumar

Drafting a business letter on Microsoft Word poses certain challenges and many MS Word users are not sure how to meet them. Let me explain.

The business letter has a specific structure. At the top is the heading or letterhead bearing name and address of the sender. This is followed successively by the name and address of the addressee, a line carrying the letter number as well as place and date of issue, the subject line, the salutation, the letter body, the complimentary close and name and signature of the sender. Each part is required to be formatted and aligned in a particular manner.

I have seen MS Word users fumble particularly in aligning text in the heading, the letter number line as well as in the complimentary close and the name of the sender. I have already posted the correct way of text alignment in the head of the letter in the first part of this series. In this post, I propose to address the other two problem areas.

In this post, I have referred to MS Word 2010 commands and screen elements. However, you will be able to use the same method with other versions of Word too.

Aligning Text in the Letter Number Line

This line carries the issue number of the letter which is generally aligned with the left margin. This is followed by the place of issue and the date on which the letter is sent. The place and date text are generally aligned with the right margin. Thus, in the same line some text is left aligned and some text right aligned.

Many MS Word users try to achieve the requisite alignment by typing the letter number at the left margin and then using the tab key and space bar of the computer to align the place and date text with the right margin as shown below:
Error in aligning text in letter number line of a letter in MS Word
Figure 1

This can result in unexpected results while editing and printing the letter. The correct method of aligning text in the letter number line is as follows:
  1. Place the cursor at the beginning of the line.
  2. Suppose the number of the letter is “Fin/ Exp/ 13758”. So, Type “No: Fin/ Exp/ 13758” at the left margin.
  3. If the ruler is not visible, click the ‘View Ruler’ button. The ‘Horizontal Ruler’ and the ‘Tab Selector’ will appear below the ‘Ribbon’.
  4. Click the ‘Tab Selector’ repeatedly until the ‘Right Tab Marker’ appears on it.
  5. Click the ‘Horizontal Ruler’ somewhere near the right margin. The ‘Right Tab Marker’ will appear on the ruler.
  6. Drag the ‘Right Tab Marker’ to the right margin on the ‘Horizontal Ruler’ and drop it there.
  7. Press Tab key on your computer. The cursor will jump to the right margin.
  8. Type the place and date of issue e.g. “Patna/ Dated 12 December, 2012”
  9. The letter number line will look as shown below: 
Correct way of aligning text in letter number line of letter in MS Word
Figure 2
This is the correct way of aligning text in letter number line. When you edit the letter number, the place and date text will remain undisturbed at the right margin. Similarly, if you edit the place and date text, the letter number text will not be affected. Also, the line will print correctly as it appears on the computer screen.
    Aligning the Complimentary Close and the Sender’s Name

    The complimentary close is located below the letter body. For business letters, the complimentary close is “Yours faithfully” followed by a comma “,”. Below this, you leave blank space equivalent to 1-2 line spaces for the sender to affix his signature and his name is typed underneath within brackets.

    The complimentary close is generally located near the right margin, either flush with it or at a small distance before it. On the other hand, some people like to keep it at or near the left margin. No matter where the complimentary close is kept, the sender’s name must appear directly underneath it such that the centre of the name text and the centre of the complimentary close text are in the same vertical line. This gives the letter an elegant and professional appearance. However, many times you would see letters where both the complimentary close and the sender’s name are either left aligned or right aligned, making the letter look amateurish (see figures 3 & 4 below).

    Amateurish way of aligning text in Complimatary Close and name-1
    Figure 3
    Amateurish way of aligning text in Complimatary Close and name-2
    Figure 4
    I am explaining below two methods for correctly handling the complimentary close and the sender’s name in business letters.

    Method-1: Using the Horizontal Ruler and Tabs
    1. Place the cursor below the letter body text.
    2. If the ‘Horizontal Ruler’ and ‘Tab Selector are not visible, click the ‘View Ruler’ button. The ruler and tab selector will apeear on the computer screen below the Ribbon.
    3. Click the ‘Tab Selector’ repeatedly until the ‘Centre Tab’ marker appears on it.
    4. Now click on the ‘Horizontal Ruler’ at the point where you wish the centre of complimentary close to be located. The ‘Centre tab’ marker will appear on the Ruler.
    5. Press the Tab key on your computer. The cursor will move to the position of the centre tab.
    6. Type the text of complimentary close. The letters will appear at the position of the centre tab and move left or right such that the text remains centred around the tab position.
    7. Press the Enter key. The cursor will descend to the left margin of the next line.
    8. We need to leave this line blank to allow space for signing the letter. Hence, press Enter key again. The cursor will go down to the next line. Notice that the ‘Centre Tab’ marker is still visible on the ‘Horizontal Ruler’, which means that you can centre align text around the tab position on this line too.
    9. Press the Tab key. The cursor will jump to the position of the ‘Centre Tab’.
    10. Type the sender’s name within brackets. The name text will centrally align around the ‘Centre Tab’. Both the complimentary close and sender's name are now centrally aligned around the centre tab, exactly the way they are supposed to appear in the letter (see figure 5 below).
    Correct text alignment in Complimentary Close and sender's name
    Figure 5
      Method-2: Using Text Box

      Text box drop-down menu of MS Word
      Figure 6
      1. After you have finished typing the letter body text, press the Enter key so that the cursor descends to the line below.
      2. Click the ‘Insert’ tab on the Ribbon.
      3. In the ‘Text’ group, click the ‘Text Box’ button. A drop-down menu will open showing the gallery of built in text box styles that MS Word offers (see Figure 6).
      4. Click the ‘Simple Text Box’. A text box will appear below the letter body text (see Figure 7). You will find some instructions typed within the box and this text is already highlighted i.e. selected. In case, this text is not highlighted, just click the text in the box and it will get highlighted.
      5. Insertion of Text Box in a MS Word document
        Figure 7
      6. Type the complimentary close text viz. “Yours faithfully,”. The highlighted text will be replaced with the complimentary close text.
      7. Press Enter key twice and type sender’s name within brackets e.g. (N. Kumar).
      8. Select the entire text within the text box, i.e. both the complimentary close text and the name text. The ‘Mini Toolbar’ will appear.
      9. Click the ‘Centre’ button on the ‘Mini Toolbar’. The complimentary close text and the name text will be centered within the text box (see Figure 8).
      10. Complimentary Close and sender's name text centred in text box
        Figure 8
      11. If you find too much empty space within the text box, you can reduce its size. To do this, drag the size handles (see Figure 7) on the text box outline towards the text inside. The text box will be resized.
      12. Text box dragged near the right margin
        Figure 9
      13. You can place the text box anywhere you please. To move the text box, place the mouse pointer on the text box boundary where it will change into a four headed arrow (see Figure 7). Press the left mouse key and while keeping it pressed, drag the text box and drop it at the desired location near the right margin below the letter body (see Figure 9).
      14. The text box shows a thin outline on its boundary, which we do not need. To remove it, click the ‘Drawing Tools Format’ tab, which has appeared on the Ribbon when you inserted text box in the document.
      15. In the ‘Shape Styles’ group, click the ‘Shape Outline’ button. A drop-down menu will open.
      16. Select ‘No Outline’ option from the drop-down menu. The outline will disappear.
      You will find that the complimentary close and name text are properly aligned at your desired location in the letter (see Figure 10).
      Text box formatting completed
      Figure 10

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