There’s No Substitute for Practice

When I teach classes in computer applications, there is occasionally an expectation that after a six-hour class, the student will have mastered all the material we’ve covered in the class.

I wish it worked that way, I really do.

But the problem comes in when the student takes the class and then never touches the application except to do the routine things that he’d originally done before spending all that time being exposed to new material. He forgets it. He has to forget it. There is no way he can retain it.

Practice is important. No, it’s more than important, it’s crucial to retaining the information.

Every computer application class I teach has independent practice exercises for each concept covered. The student is meant to go back to the home or office, then try out the new material and see how it works in the non-classroom environment.

The students that do well will do these provided exercises in a day or two, often emailing me for help with the sticky parts.

The students that genuinely develop mastery take it a step further. After playing with the provided exercises, they’ll start creating their own solutions relevant to their lives, their jobs and their interests.

As a teacher, of course I have to maintain mastery of the applications I teach. To do this, I come up with exercises or play with solutions, myself, that are relevant to my interests.

As a computer professional, I do tend to have geeky interests. My husband, alike in geekery, was noodling around on a discussion board when a complaint about a long-term science fiction program (Doctor Who) came up. The main character flies about in a time machine and picks up companions to travel with him from all over time and space. Someone complained that the companions were all from present-day (at the time of the episode airing) Earth, and that didn’t make sense.

I disagreed that the companions were all from present-day Earth, and immediately pulled up MS Excel to come up with some solid proof.

We made a list of the companions in one column; then populated the second column with a Y or an N to indicate whether or not they were from the present day. After that, I created a couple of named ranges for the columns.*

This groundwork made a COUNTIF function to find out how many companions were from present-day Earth a simple matter.

From Present Not From Present
24 18

The formula in cell D3 is =COUNTIF(Table1[PresentDay?], “Y”)

The formula in cell E3 is =COUNTIF(Table1[PresentDay?], “N”)

As a small addition to this little practice exercise, I created a little pie chart from my findings.

Is it in any way important where characters from a science fiction program hail? Of course not! But consistent, deliberate practice? That’s crucial and vital to mastery.

But there’s no reason that the practice can’t be a little fun and goofy!


* A named range is a meaningful name you can give to a cell or range of cells that you can then use in a formula or function. I’ll be posting how to create one in a future Nifty Tip.

Do You Have Office Hours?

Working from Home Means Freedom

Often the idea of working for oneself means freedom! If you get a wild hare to go shopping in the middle of the day, you can do it and finish up your work later in the day. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck to get a report done. You don’t have to get up at six in the morning to commute to your job.

When I first started as a freelancer, certainly that freedom appealed to me.

In truth, yes, there is a lot of freedom that comes with being your own boss. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But being your own boss is often a matter of self-management. That means you’ll need to decide on company policy.

For the longest time, I did not have specific office hours. As long as I was making a target income, I would work to the job, or work to get the job and not worry too much about it otherwise.

That caused several problems. I found myself never taking a full weekend or never feeling as if my time were really my own. Goofing off on the Internet (which I genuinely enjoy) started to merge with work time so that it was difficult for me to assess whether or not I was being genuinely productive at any given time. I hit my deadlines, so my clients were happy. I was always prepared to teach my classes, so the classes went well.

And that was great.

You Still Need Office Hours

But, it was easy to lie to myself, to be externally motivated by deadline and visions of happy clients rather than by my own goals.

My own office hours actually started as a way to ensure that I would not get telephone calls from clients at ungodly hours unexpectedly. I set a specific time when I could be contacted (and included the time zone!) so that if a client needed to talk to me outside that time, we’d arrange for a phone meeting. I like being available to my clients, but for random, off-the-cuff stuff, the office hours worked out better.

Then, I started attempting to analyze my productivity. Other than my accounting software, I really couldn’t. I work to the job rather than to the clock. How much of surfing the net was genuine research and how much of it was procrastinating and screwing around? What about personal projects that were falling by the wayside? What about value-added things I could do for my clients that I was not thinking about because I was too busy laughing at something on Youtube? Sure, sure, I was paying the bills. But was I really being effective?

Since the fluid work habits made it too hard to do an honest analysis, I actually set genuine work hours. I was allowed to work outside those hours if I wanted to (and I usually do), but I was not allowed to goof off within them. I even downloaded blocking software to keep me off sites that were not productive. While I would have been deeply annoyed if my boss had done this to me in a “Real Job”, I confess that as the boss, it sure does help keep focused on work during worktime.

Plug-ins to block time wasting sites

When Should You Have Office Hours?

I chose to make my work hours and my office hours slightly different. Knowing that I am most productive early in the morning, my work hours start long before I’m taking telephone calls from clients. I’m allowed to start goofing off slightly before I stop taking client calls, as well.

Doing this, I’m working smarter rather than harder. I’ve given myself a limited amount of time within which to accomplish my work for my clients, so there’s no use in fooling around. It needs to be done! But when it is done, instead of going off to play, I’m working on other projects that will be useful down the road – creating attractive cheat sheets for the computer classes I teach, working on writing projects that might not have an immediate benefit to my bank account, but in the long term might prove useful, thinking about new and better ways to market my work, thinking about new and better ways to be valuable to my clients. All of these things really are part of my job, even if I’m not directly getting a cash amount for it.

If you’re finding your freelance career stagnating, I encourage you to try office hours for a while and see what it does for you. There’s nothing like the recharge of knowing that you’ve put in a full day, that it’s legitimately done and goofing off with a clear conscience in your off-time. You’ll come back to your work recharged, excited and clearer-headed, ready to meet all the challenges and rewards of being self-employed.

How to Lock Their Sticky Fingers Out of Your Formatting

Do you ever collaborate on documents?

Do you ever find that when you do, someone with whom you collaborate does not know how to use Styles in Word?

It’s okay. I know the answer to this one. You totally do. It might even drive you up a wall when someone you’re collaborating with will force formatting instead of using Styles. If you’re using them extensively, this messes up everything from the seamless look of the document to logical text flow.

Did you know you can lock them out of that? Your collaborator, the brilliant writer, can then write the brilliant text without messing up the rest of the structure of the document. It’s awesome.

How to restrict formatting and styles in MS Word

Let’s take this somewhat out of date document – a guide to some new features in Office 2013. It makes extensive use of styles for both formatting and text flow. If you check to the right, you’ll see the navigation pane which shows the organization of the document in headings and subheadings. Text flow is also controlled by forcing a page break before certain types of headings. (See The Top Three Reasons to Use Styles When Formatting a Document for a little blurb on how to do that)

If I wanted to hand this document to someone else so they could contribute some material, I still would not want them messing with how the styles work in it. It drives the layout and look of the document.

So, I restrict formatting.

  1. Click on the Review tab and go to the Protect group.
  2. Click on Restrict Editing.

  3. The Restrict Editing task pane will appear on the right of your screen.

  4. Under Formatting Restrictions, click on Settings.

  5. From here you can restrict formatting changes to the styles you want the author to use. I strongly recommend using Recommended Minimum. Once you’ve made your choices, click OK.
  6. You will get a warning telling you that if styles are used for which you’ve blocked changes, they’ll be removed. Make sure you choose all the styles you use in your document! It will only activate, however, after you’ve clicked Yes.
  7. If you want to add editing restrictions such as Tracked Changes, you can choose that under Editing Restrictions.

  8. When you’re ready, just click on Yes, Start Enforcing Protection. You will get a notification to enter a password. DO NOT FORGET THIS PASSWORD. There is no way to recover it, and you might lock yourself out of something you don’t want to if you forget this password. When you have set a password that you will remember, click OK.

Now that you have your document protected, I want you to notice something on the Home ribbon:

See the Font and Paragraph groups? They’re ghosted – locked down. The only formatting that the writer can now add is in styles. No more Purple Comic Sans for that author! Yes, there is a style that’s equivalent to Bold. It’s called Strong. However, the use of styles versus font-based formatting brings up a point. If you’re going to do this, you need to educate your writers on what you did, why you did it, and then show them how they can accomplish what they want within Styles.

I mean, you’re working on documents, so like… Communication is a thing, right?

From Bullets to Smart Art: You can make an interesting presentation easy

Have you ever seen a presentation like this:

There are several problems with this presentation. The first is simply that the outline for the presentation is actually written on the slide. There are times when you should do this. For instance, if you intend the presentation to be viewed online without narration. Otherwise, not only is it dull, it will encourage the speaker to look at the presentation screen or the presenter’s computer rather than engage with the audience.

Sure, you can mix it up with a little animation, and it might be that you don’t want to go too crazy with the images. While understandable, there is a better way.

This is essentially the same “outline” as the first slide. While again, you’ve just about written your talk on your slides, it is still an improvement because the slide now is a bit more dynamic.

So, that took me all afternoon to create the text boxes, align the images, layer the images over a background image, and choose the color scheme, right?

No, I didn’t. I’m no graphic artist. What I used was SmartArt. It took me one minute to create that.

But how?

  1. Select the text you want to turn into SmartArt. Notice, in this case, I have a bulleted list that has indented information. So we have Level 1 information and Level 2 information. This will be important later on.

  2. On the Home tab in the Paragraph group, select Convert to Smart Art.

  3. You will be able to select a SmartArt style that will help convey your message graphically. If you are trying to drill down to a specific detail in a topic, a target might be a good idea. If you are speeding to a goal, an arrow works well. If you are trying to indicate interlocking dependencies, there is a gear option from More SmartArt Graphics. The important point, however, is that you choose something that will help put your audience’s mind in the direction of your presentation’s main goal.

  4. Once you have converted your text to SmartArt, two contextual tabs will appear – Design and Format. From the Design tab, you can choose a color scheme for your smart art, change the layout if you find you like something better, and even convert your SmartArt into an image for use somewhere else. On the Format tab, you can format individual shapes. Want the dark green text box to be purple with an orange outline, but leave the rest the way they are? Easily done in the Shape Styles group. I’m not going to outline all of the options, as the best way to learn SmartArt is to play with it.

However, there is one point about SmartArt I do want to draw your attention to. That’s the text pane. You’ll notice that on the left of the SmartArt box, there is a small arrow. If you click on that, it will display the text box.

The text box retains the bulleted text and the indentations that you originally wrote. Each level of the bullets will drive the appearance of the SmartArt. Sometimes, adding a bullet point will add a shape. Sometimes changing the indentation will change how the shape appears. This is something else I strongly encourage you to play with. It’s quite intuitive, and it might give you some ideas for your presentation.


Note: I used the Dividend theme straight out of the box from PowerPoint 2016.

Optimize for Mobile Devices: A Heartfelt Plea

I have a bone to pick with you web developers, business owners, and bloggers out there.  Many of you don’t have mobile-friendly sites.  Why is this?

Even back when I was living in the dark ages and was not using a mobile device myself, I understood that there were plenty of people around who were.  My sites all have a mobile version.  Granted, I’m running WordPress-powered blogs for the most part, so getting the plug-in wasn’t exactly hard or anything.  I did it because I know that when you’re bored, reading short pieces appropriate to a blog is a common way for the wired to entertain themselves.

Don’t think it’s just for blogging, though.  More and more, people will be using mobile devices to search for information as they’re going about their day.

Who Needs a Mobile-Friendly Site?

  • Restaurants

Every one of us has looked around, at our friends and voiced that time-honored phrase, “Where do you want to go for dinner?”  We don’t always ask this question in front of a computer or phone book.  Make sure that you have a mobile-friendly page that shows your location, hours open, menu and a general idea of prices.  It’ll make it more likely for your customers to pick you.

  • Bloggers

Yes, that theme you designed is very pretty.  Guess what? I can’t see it on a screen smaller than the palm of my hand, and I’m not visiting your site because it’s pretty.  If I read a blog regularly, it’s because I find what you have to say entertaining, informative, or more likely both!   Have a mobile version.  And if you’re worried about ad revenue, don’t.  On your mobile version, you can set it so that the ads show interspersed with the text or at the bottom of the screen.

  • Anyone that sells things over the Internet

Amazon has a mobile-friendly site.  Big department stores do, too.  If you sell products online, you really want your potential customers to be able to make an impulse purchase from their mobile phones.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on a site that’ll be friendly to your mobile customers,  and you want to be able to make it easy for them to make that impulse purchase.

Let’s assume you’re convinced.

What makes a website mobile-friendly?

  • Vertical Design

Mobile devices generally have a screen that is narrower than it is wide.   The user will be scrolling down a great deal to get to content.  Make sure the most useful content is right at the top – rather like going for page rank on Google.

  • Minimized clicks

Make sure that your user doesn’t have to click on too many internal links for the site to be useful.  However, resist the temptation to put all of the content on one page.

  • Minimized textual input

Typing on a mobile is a pain.  Make sure you’re not forcing your user to fill out too many forms.

  • Minimized Image Use

Think icons here.  Don’t integrate the image into the usefulness of the site!

  • Good Content organization

Make sure you sit down and draw out not only a generalized design, but make some flow charts about how your user is likely to navigate the site.  Test this with people who are not web developers until you can get a usage flow that makes sense and is fairly intuitive.

Remember that your main site, the one that people will be browsing on larger screens, can be considerably more elaborate.  What you want here is a version of the site built specifically for your mobile user.  If you’re considering a new website, make sure that you get a designer that understands these principles.


Why I Hate Tips and Tricks in Software Instruction

I’m about to play the hypocrite a little here.

A vast majority of my blog posts here on Figart Consulting are little nuggets of information about software. Why? Because it’s easy. I can write a 500-1000-word piece on some little bit of productivity software knowledge that might be useful to you. It might save you a half an hour when you’re trying to accomplish something.

And it’s still not really as useful as it could be.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s why I hate these little classes in software applications. You know the ones, “How to manage your Inbox” or “How to Make Pivot Tables in Excel.” I’ve taught classes like that. Shoot, I’ve written classes like that. I don’t like them.*

Why are they taught? For the same reason I write the articles. They’re easy – both for the teacher and the student.

What Tips ‘n Tricks Are Good For

It’s not that these little classes are unilaterally useless. They’re not. It’s that they’re truly only worthwhile to a peculiar subset of the population. The Gee, I Didn’t Know That! Nifty Tip is really only good for someone who knows the software in the first place. When I say “knows,” I do not mean someone who can look at the interface and puzzle it out. I don’t even mean someone who can make the software do a single task or figure out something.

When I say “knows,” I am speaking of someone who understands the underlying logic behind the software, and how its features might integrate to perform multiple complex tasks. The reality? Most people don’t know the software they use very well. (And if you argue that you shouldn’t have to understand its underlying logic to use it, I have to ask is your task truly complex enough to require software?)

If you do understand the software you’re using, yeah, those little tips and tricks will be quite useful. It’ll save you some time and you’ll be able to apply them in a useful way.

Where Tips ‘n Tricks Fall Down

I’ve taught a lot of classes in Excel. The class I want desperately to teach, and have never had the opportunity to do so, is the How to Design a Spreadsheet class. There are reasons for this. Not only is course development expensive, this is not conducive to the one-day training most employers prefer. For it to work well, I’d have to teach it more like a college class – several days over a course of many weeks – including homework and a project.

This comes from an hour on the phone doing tech support that was really turning into a development class when a user inherits a workbook that no longer works properly because changes need to be made in how data is tracked.

This comes from helping someone update a presentation using the tools available in PowerPoint, only to find that they do not know how to structure an effective talk.

This comes from re-formatting articles that cross my desk for editing purposes because the user doesn’t understand format and text flow in a document.

None of these problems can be fixed by Tips ‘n Tricks, but by understanding what the software is supposed to accomplish and understanding what task you’re trying to accomplish. Too much of what we do with computers really does have a flavor of, “Don’t bend that wrench, get a bigger hammer!”

Don’t get me wrong. I know why we don’t do it. Learning the principles behind anything is hard.

We Need to Teach Principles Based Productivity

Even though principles-based learning is hard at first, we need to teach it. The sad reality is that most people are taught to be able to do well on standardized tests. In the real world, though, you do not have standard problems to solve. I don’t care what your job happens to be, if it’s complex enough to sit down in front of a computer to it (and that includes being a cashier), you need to be able to analyze what you see in front of you, and plan not only a solution, but a way to avoid the problem in the future.

This means teaching people to sketch out what they want on a whiteboard before they sit down to create a spreadsheet. This means making an outline before starting a document. This means brainstorming a talk, maybe even writing an outline, before creating presentation slides.

To the computer professional, the expression, “Never skip the design phase” might be common. The thing is, that skill is necessary for more than just the programmers. You need to know where you are going. You need to know what you want to accomplish. You need to know what your tools can do. Without that, tips-n-tricks are pretty useless.

* This is not a secret to anyone who has asked me to write such a class, by the way. They’ve gotten this earful more than once.

Zero and Zip Codes in Excel

Once upon a time, there was a completely random and fictional person who had to convert a mailing list from an Excel spreadsheet to a series of mailing labels via Mail Merge in Word. This completely random and fictional person truly was pretty good with MS Office, but had gotten a bit cocky and wasn’t quite as good as she thought.

This (honest!) completely random and fictional person had a client in Northern New England. The location will become important to the story later.

The spreadsheet had a list of ten thousand addresses. But the completely random and fictional person was undaunted. After all, the source spreadsheet looked wonderful – as well, laid-out and sensible a table as one could wish for when creating an address list:

Beautiful, right? It was going to be an easy mail merge.

(Y’all’ve guessed it wasn’t, I am sure.)

So the completely random and fictional person set up the mail merge and did something pretty stupid regarding printing out ten thousand labels. This completely random and fictional person neglected to do a print preview, set that bad boy to print and went for a cup of coffee and chat with the client before going back to the printer.

At the printer, the completely random and fictional person found ten thousand labels with addresses like this:

Can you spot the error? Check out those ZIP codes. ZIP codes in the US have a minimum of five characters. So why in the world didn’t the beautiful (and correct!) zip codes in the spreadsheet translate to the mail merge?

When you do a mail merge, what Word actually does is take the characters in the cell (or the results of a formula) from the spreadsheet and copies them to the proper field in the document.

Take a look at the actual contents of the zip code cell for Boris Badenov:

Even though the cell is set to display as a five-digit ZIP code, the value in cell F2 is Three Thousand Seven Hundred Sixty-six, not Zero-Three-Seven-Six-Six.

So, what’s the numeric difference between those two numbers? None at all. It is only as a string of characters, the actual Arabic numeric symbols, that this becomes important. When you enter a string of Arabic numeric characters into a cell in Excel, it immediately formats that string as a number and will strip out the numerically meaningless preceding zero.

When you format cells as a ZIP code, it will take that string of four characters, and add a zero for you to see in Excel, but it does not store that zero as an actual character.


Instead of formatting the cells as numbers and a ZIP code, you format those cells as text. Then you can keep the preceding zero just fine.

The problem comes in when you hand someone an assignment to enter a bunch of addresses (including some New England addresses) into a spreadsheet. Unless the person doing data entry is thinking regarding data transfer to other applications, they’re not going to bother to think about doing anything other than just formatting the zip code as a zip code. They won’t give it another second’s thought.

If you’re going to be using Excel to store data that has a preceding zero that you will be using in mail merges or transferring to other programs, be sure to select that column of information, and format it as Text. (I don’t recommend the trick of the preceding apostrophe, i.e. ‘03766. While it does, indeed, cause Excel to format the data as text and only display the numbers, it plays hob with data transfers like mail merges!)

Nifty Tip: Using the CONCATENATE Formula

The CONCATENATE formula allows one to combine text from multiple cells into a single cell. The CONCATENATE formula is in the Text category in the Insert Function dialog box.

To add a blank character between words, type a space between quotation marks. This adds a blank character between the separated text. Whatever is between the quotes, be it a space, text or characters, it will show up in the concatenation.

So, if you were trying to create an email address at Dartmouth College, the formula would be:


Which would yield:

Tables in Excel and Why They Rock

Quick, when someone mentions the word “table” with reference to Excel, what do you think of?

Probably an array of some sort organizing rows and columns of data. While that’s not incorrect, necessarily, tables are object in Excel that can do so much more.

What are Tables?

Tables are specific objects. When you format a range of cells as a table, you’re telling Excel that you’re going to treat this range as a unit to display and manipulate your data.

So, let’s say you take a range with some data in it that looks like this:

We’re listing students, their Hogwarts houses, their favorite candies, and how Ordinary Wizarding Levels they achieved. We’re going to be doing market research on a new candy flavor, and we will be taking this sample data to try to decide how to target different demographics based on the information we have.

Why Use Tables?

We can manipulate the data in this step by step if we want to – apply color, borders, fill, filters, and so on. But there is an easier way.


A nice-looking array with banded rows and different formatting for the header isn’t just about the “pretty.” Differences in format, color and shade make the table easier and faster to read. That’s why your supervisor gets excited at well-formatted tables. The data is easier to analyze.

Let’s make this array a table.

  1. Select the range of cells you want to format as a table. In this case, it will be cells A1:E6
  2. On the Home tab in the Styles group, click on the Format as Table button.

  3. The table style gallery will appear. Choose a layout you like.
  4. A popup will appear asking if your table has headers and to verify the range of cells you want to make a table. Most of the time, it will have headers, so make sure you have checked it.

  5. Click OK.

You now have your table. Isn’t it pretty?

The pretty might be enough for you. After all, this is a decent layout, quick to do and easy to add to. Any time you add another record to this table, the range of the table automatically expands to include it, and you’ll notice the banded rows continue. It looks good automatically.

However, while this is nicely laid-out and easy to read, there’s more to tables than just looking good easily. There are some other functions that can be important.

Structured Referencing

For our example, we’re trying to analyze how important someone’s opinion might be based on two things – their Hogwarts House, and how many OWLs they’ve achieved.*

With tables, we can easily create this equation, then apply it to a large table.

For this example, we’re going to be listing the houses with Slytherin being the most influential with a score of 4, then Gryffindor with a score of 3, Ravenclaw 2 and Hufflepuff 1.

We’ll add column to our table called Influence. Then we write this equation in the first cell of the Influence column.

=IF([House]=”Slytherin”, 4, IF([House]=”Gryffindor”, 3, IF([House]=”Ravenclaw”, 2, IF([House]=”Hufflepuff”, 1, 0))))

Looks rather like a monster, doesn’t it?

What this is doing is a series of evaluations that will assign an influence integer based on the House name. Instead of referring to a specific cell in Column C (i.e. C3), it instead goes by the Structure of the table and just refers to the House field. Structured referencing means that we can perform calculations easily based on structure.

Now that nested IF equation is a bit of a pain in the butt to write, and I only want to do it once. Because I write the equation in the first cell of the Influence column in the table, it will automatically copy that equation down to each of the cells in the Influence column.

Now we are going to create our Influence Score based on the number of OWLs achieved times the Influence a particular entry has.

We will again create another column calling it InfluenceScore. We write our equation as =[OWLS]*[Influence], not as =SUM(E2*F2). This is where structured referencing comes in. We’re doing calculations based on the field names, not the specific cells.

You will also note that the field names are not case sensitive. When we press Enter, the equation will copy down the entire column. For eight records, this is not a particularly big deal. Autofill might serve as well. But if you have thousands of records, you might find that this comes in handy. (I sure do!)

Once we have our InfluenceScore, we can then click on one of the AutoFilter buttons on the right of InfluenceScore header to sort the table from highest score to lowest.

From there we can see that Albus Dumbledore is probably the most influential person to approach about candy marketing in the Wizarding World.


As you can see, formatting a range as a table can make sorting, filtering and evaluating date much easier. While this example only has a few records, if you need computer enhancement, you’re probably dealing with hundreds or thousands of data points. When you’re doing so, formatting data in tables for evaluation can make your job much, much easier!

* For the non-Harry Potter fan, an OWL is a test passed in a particular subject. The more OWLs you’ve achieved, the better student you probably are and more likely to have an influential job.

Guidelines for Blog Authors

Congratulations. You’ve been asked to submit an article for online content. Once you’ve settled the remuneration, schedule, and deadlines, you might want to ask for the format in which you should submit an article.

Don’t freak, however, if you get the email equivalent of a blank stare. The author wrangler may not be the content manager, nor are they necessarily the person in charge of cleaning up and posting the article. If it happens that you don’t get specific rules, these guidelines will make things simple for the person who posts your article.

  1. If at all possible, use a standard word processing program.

    MS Word, in its more modern versions, does an adequate job of cleaning out junk code and even has the option to post to several content management systems. But if you don’t have Word, OpenOffice or Google Docs is just fine, as long as you don’t try to get too specific with the layout.

  2. Don’t get cute with fonts. Just use the program defaults.

    I know you love Papyrus, or think that Times New Roman gives your work such a professional air. You may even have Views about appropriate fonts for the Internet. Don’t try to force this, as the person who posts your article needs to follow the blog stylesheet (they have them, even if your contact doesn’t realize it). There are exceptions to this. For instance, when you’re writing an article that requires you to show programming code. Courier New is a good basic font for this. (Why is beyond the scope of this article, but it has to do with ease of spacing). In general, however, there is little reason to be specific with fonts. For your article, run with your word processor’s default, even if you have to hold your nose to do it.

  3. Headings are important but use the heading styles rather than change the font sizes.

    Headings in blog posts are more than subtitles or ways to organize a longer article. Yes, that’s part of it, but search engines also give greater weight to text in headings. It is very important that if your word processing program has the Heading 1, Heading 2 (and so on) styles available that you use them as section headings in your article. Again, go with the defaults. Yes, that blue that MS Word uses for its standard template might make you wrinkle your nose. But it’s not going to matter when the content manager uploads the article to the blog’s CMS. The blogging software will translate those fonts and colors to whatever template and stylesheet that the blog’s web developer uses.

  4. Forget headers, footers, page numbers or forcing page breaks.

    That’s for print. It’s needless work on your part that the person posting your article will remove anyway.

  5. If layout is important, and you force it with a table, please explain to the webmaster why this might be.

    They might have ways to fix it that don’t use tables. Most blogs need to be mobile friendly, and if you force layout with a table, it may not translate well from a computer screen to a phone or tablet. If it’s too much of a pain to read, many people just won’t bother. You want people to read your work, yes?

  6. Don’t get fancy with image layout, either. Have each image on its own line.

    The same principle applies to images as tables. Forcing a layout that would be pleasing in print may translate very poorly to the varying screen sizes in which people will be reading your article. The friendlier your webmaster can make it for more screen sizes; the more people will read and love your work!