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Outline Numbering in Word

Me and my partner, Jennifer Ellis, just returned from presenting numerous seminars at The Paralegal Institute and The Law Practice Management and Development Institute, both of which were held at the beautiful Lancaster Marriott Hotel & Convention Center.  I presented, among others, a session on Word for Paralegals, and Word for Attorneys, respectively, at each institute.  I ran into a frustrating and embarassing problem when demonstrating Outline Numbering in Word.  I promised those who attended I would get to the bottom of the problem and post the resolution on my blog.  I am making good on that promise with this post.

While still at the conference, I contacted our Microsoft trainer, Judith Kraft, to see if she had a solution.  Judy’s suggestion was worth noting, however it was not the cause of the problem I experienced at the conference.  I had already detected that a Microsoft Word default setting was, ahem, wrong, and fixed it.  But it’s likely that you haven’t, so you will want to check this first, before you attempt to follow my instructions.

It seems that by default the automatic numbered lists check box might not be checked in the Autocorrect section.  To get there:  Click the Office button / select Word Options in bottom right / Proofing / Autocorrect / make sure that “autoformat as you type” is checked.  If not, click in the box to turn it on.  The default is NOT turned on in the 2007 and 2010 versions out of the box. 

Ok, but as I said, that isn’t what was causing the pesky problem during the demonstration.  Then I remembered that when I last suffered a similar embarassment, it was demonstrating the exact same feature in Word 2003.  And I further recalled having the problem as far back as Word 2000, when I first encountered it.

The resolution at the time was to accept the fact that the one outline numbering format/style which seemed to be the most popular and appropriate with/for attorneys was in fact the only one which was buggy.  It just doesn’t work.  Could it be that all these years later, the problem had not yet been fixed?  Inplausible.  Impossible.  Yet, unbelievably, absolutely true!!

Since every outline style is completely customizable — one of the reasons for the demonstration — I decided to prove the hypothesis by using a different style, and making it look like the other one.  In doing so, I also discovered yet another shortcut which you will find makes it even better and easier to do this.  Here are the steps I performed:

  1. From the HOME tab, click on the Multi-level List Icon (the main icon, not the pull-down arrow next to it).
  2. When the menu opens, I noted that “None” was selected.  I immediately scrolled down to the bottom section of the dialog box and selected “Define New Multilevel List”. 
  3. I clicked on Level 1 to modify in the top-left box. 
    • I went to “Number style for this Level” and clicked on the down arrow, and selected  “I, II, III” for roman numerals.
    • I went into “Enter formatting for number box” immediately above.  I removed the right parentheses and replaced it with a period.  [Remember, you format this the way you want.  Just because I choose to put in or take out a parentheses or period, doesn’t mean you have to do the same.  You format each level how you want.]
    • I clicked on “Font” immediately to the right.  I picked the font I normally use for default, since it’s pretty likely it will match whatever document I use it in.  While you are in there, you should notice whether your font color says “No Color” and if so, change it to “Automatic”.  [If you want your numbers to stand out, you can pick whatever other color you want.]  I also chose to make the numbering Bold.  I also noticed that all of the “Effects” were shaded.  Just to make sure there were no errors, I purposely checked, and then unchecked each, so no special effects would be inadvertently applied.  [Remember, if you do this right, you won’t have to do it again, so take the time to do it right.]
  4. Anyone who does outlines which contain roman numerals, or have more than 9 items at the same “level” knows that your indenting can quickly misalign when your number is more than one digit in length if you only use the default .25 inch indent after the number.  So I changed the “Text indent at” setting from .25 to .50. 
  5. Here is the new step which saved tons of time aligning all the following levels.  I checked the box immediately to the right labeled “Set for All Levels.”  It opened a dialog box, where I changed both “Text Position for First Level” and “Additional indent for each level:” from .25 to .50.  By doing this, I didn’t have to do anything for the additional levels except for repeating step 3a through 3c above.  [Note:  for those of you who don’t want the text to all align like on this list – perhaps you want to have the text return to the position under the number for second and subsequent lines, or even wrap to the left margin, it will mean that you will want to change the “Additional indent for each level” number.]
  6. Once all nine levels were defined to my satisfaction and looked pretty good in the preview screen, I clicked “OK” and I was in my document at “I”. [Note:  for some reason, the “Numbered List” key was activated, and not the “Multi-level Numbering” key.  But I continued anyway, and it worked fine.
  7. Now came the testing.  I entered at least two lines of text for each number, and at least two numbers for each level.  I tested all nine levels to make sure that everything was indenting and wrapping just as I wanted, and that the labels were as I wanted. 
  8. Avoid the most common mistake made with Outline numbering.  To move down (right) a level, you press the “Increase Indent” key, not the Tab key.  To move up (left) a level, you press the “Decrease Indent” key.  Again, not the Tab key.  While Tab may appear to work correctly, you are putting errors in the side-stream of your document which very well could cause it to corrupt later. 
  9. Avoid the second most common mistake made with any kind of numbering – flat list or multi-level.  If you want an extra blank line between your numbered items, don’t try using an extra return, turning off numbering, and then another return and turning numbering back on.  Instead, build the space into each paragraph by going into Home / Paragraph.  Select the little right arrow on the right of the Paragraph section label to open the dialog box, and adjust the “Space After” setting.  [Note:  Word hates blank paragraphs.  It’s designed to have the extra blank spaces included within the paragraph definition.]
    • You’ll note that if you use the up and down arrows, by default the increments will change in 6 pt increments.  But you can just select (click and drag over) the number and type in anything you want.  If you’re using 10 pt for your font, then putting a 10 pt space after your paragraph will give you the equivalent of one blank line.  If you’re using a 12 pt font, then you’ll want to space 12 pt after the paragraph for the proportionate blank line.  And so forth.
    • When you correctly include the extra space within the paragraph, you’ll discover that when you move things around you won’t wind up with blank paragraphs (your extra blank lines) getting numbered in error, and having to turn numbering on and off manually.  Again, your current technique may look like it’s working, but it’s actually putting errors in your document side-stream which can eventually cause it to corrupt. By building the space into the paragraph, Word intelligently selects the paragraph with the extra space, and moves them together without causing numbering errors.
  10. Avoid the third most common mistake made with any kind of numbering– flat list or multi-level.  If you want multiple paragraphs within your numbered item, don’t try using a regular return, turn off numbering, type the next part, and then turn numbering back on after however many desired paragraphs are finished. You know what happens already – it is often difficult to align the text in the additional paragraphs.  And of course you’re doing additional work.  But the real problem shows up when you decide you want to take that multi-paragraph numbered item and move it elsewhere.  Each individual paragraph winds up getting its own number in the new location, and you have to start making manual corrections.  All of which puts more errors in your document side-stream, which lead to document corruption. When you want a multi-paragraph numbered item, like this one, you want to use a soft return instead of a hard return.  A hard return is created by pressing “Enter” whereas a soft return is created by pressing “Shift+Enter”.  You’ll notice that instead of a paragraph symbol, you’ll see a bent arrow.  You’ll want to do two soft returns to get the appearance of a blank line between paragraphs.Word will not see separate paragraphs, since there is no hard paragraph return.  It will intelligently select all of the paragraphs as one item when you copy / cut / paste.  There will be no numbering errors made in the new destination, and no corrections to make.

    [Note:  some of you may not know about intelligent selection.  If you put your mouse in the gutter to the left of any paragraph you want to select – you’ll see an arrow instead of the blinking cursor — and double-click, Word will intelligently select the paragraph in entirety, including any spacing before or after, and including what looks like multiple paragraphs thanks to soft returns.]

SAVE YOUR DOCUMENT.  Even if you’ve tested the outline with total gibberish for text, it doesn’t matter.  As long as you’ve got all nine levels on there and looking as you want, and the spacing between paragraphs just as you want, give it a name and save it.  Why?  My next post will tell you how to make a style out of the outline in this document, so you never have to do this again.  Ever.  You’ll only have to turn on the style, and it will be perfect every time.  So stay tuned!

Are Your Computers Fated to Be Hacked?

I know it’s a dangerous world for computing “out there,” but it might be a lot worse than I thought.   Computer security has long been a topic of concern for me.   You may want to review some past posts including:
Improving Computing Security with Stronger Passwords
Disposable Email Addresses
Who Uses iPad? Has AT&T’s Security Breach Left Them Vulnerable?
Another Attorney Trust Account Hit By Online Fraud
A Dangerous New Worm Affecting Apple iPhone and iPod
Online Banking and the Next Generation of Trojans
Malicious Web Sites Increasing Your Security Risk Exposure
Another Huge Security Breach
How to Avoid Dangerous Web Sites
More on Socially Engineered Viruses
Safeguarding Confidential Information
Trojan Infects 260,00 Android Devices
and many more, which can all be found under the Security category of this blog.    These are just a sampling of the posts which have appeared on this topic regularly, all the way back to 2005, when the blog got started.

My June issue of ABA Journal Law News Now — yes, I am behind in my reading — contained a link to a news article entitled “Hackers Breached 90% of US Companies Surveyed in Past 12 Months” which immediately compelled me to click on the link.  It’s a very short story, which you can easily read for yourself, but the bottom line is that 90 percent of 583 U.S. companies surveyed said their companies’ computers were breached at least once by hackers within the past year.  Some reported two or more breaches.

The article concludes, as do I, that it’s really not a question of IF your firm will experience a data breach at some point, but rather WHEN your firm will experience the breach.  This is no different than the line that many of my colleagues and I use when talking about the need for complete computer backup every single day — it’s not a question of IF your hard drive will fail or a document will become corrupted, it’s a question of WHEN.  It’s an eventuality you can’t afford to ignore or avoid preparing for and safeguarding against.

Lawyers are bound by ethical rules to safeguard client property, which includes confidential documents and other information.  Just because your firm has anti-virus software and a firewall, and backs up faithfully every night, doesn’t mean your worries are over.  There was a time when that would have been a sufficient standard to meet to protect yourself from possible disciplinary action, or a malpractice suit, in the event of a data breach.  But the standard has continued to move upward as the threat level has escalated.

Let me pose a few questions, and you can judge how well you’re able to answer them.

  1. Does everyone in the firm need to use a password to log onto their computer?
  2. Are computers left on at the end of the day — say for remote logon, or just because someone forgot — set up to use a screen saver and a screen saver password?
  3. Are laptops equipped with boot passwords?
  4. Are Smartphones in use by the firm’s lawyers set up with passwords?
  5. Did a professional install your firm’s internet router, and confirm they changed the manufacturer’s default password upon installation?
  6. Does your firm have a written internet and computer-use policy?
  7. Does your firm regularly remind employees and owners about the dangers of opening unexpected attachments or clicking on links to unknown sites?
  8. Do any of the firm’s attorneys use a home computer to do work they take back and forth on flash drive or disk, or to dial in remotely and work, when that computer is also “shared” with other family members?  (If you answered yes to this one, and any of those family members is a teenager, please don’t let me know, as I will experience immediate palpitations!)
  9. Has your firm ever hired a computer forensic expert to perform a relatively inexpensive remote test of your network and website’s security?

I could ask further questions, but let’s face it, you have to get back to work, and now I’ve probably added a little more to your long to-do list.  If you need help to make sure you’ve taken all the reasonable steps necessary to fulfill your ethical responsibilities, then get it.  Remember, it’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN, unless your firm is one of the few in that lucky 10% safety zone.  Want to bet your license on it?  I didn’t think so.


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