Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Honey, I shrunk the" file

Last Wednesday, when I was making last-minute corrections to a document, the Project Director mentioned, in passing, that s/he thought the table of contents was in too large a font size and occupied too many pages.  But we had more pressing corrections to make, so we both forged ahead with the far-more-important changes.  After I was done with the changes and had reformatted as necessary, though, I thought I'd take a quick look at the table of contents and see what I could do.  So I reformatted each of the four levels of the table of contents individually, reducing the font size to 10 and the space between lines from 5 points to 2.  Not only did I cut the length of the table of contents, I shrank the document by two pages.  This was in addition to having shrunk the length of the file, when I first began updating it, by over 50 pages, simply by reducing the main-text font size from 12 to 10, reducing the space between main-text lines to 0 before and 0 after, and putting one of the sections into two columns.

Then there was that long section of the file that had multiple lists of items separated by tabs.  I thought the section looked sloppy and was hard to read, so, on my own initiative, I added dot leaders to every single list.  That reformatting project took me more than two days.

Formatting  isn't usually difficult, but boy, can it be time-consuming!  Extensive reformatting can also be boring and require a lot of patience, and can put considerable stress on the fingers, wrists, and shoulders from all the pointing, clicking, and general mousing around.  (It's a good thing I'm ambidextrous with a mouse--I was constantly switching hands due to pain in the shoulder.)  But the results are well worth the effort.  That section now looks much more professional and is much easier to read.

'Tis a job well done, if I do say so myself.  And I don't think it's only myself who says so--in these days of frequent downsizing by my cash-strapped employer, I suspect that it's jobs well done such as this one that are helping me keep my job.

"Garbage in, garbage out" is not the way I work.  There's an old saying, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear."  I beg to differ--as far as I'm concerned, making a silk purse from a sow's ear is part of my job.  And apparently, it's a specialty--I was on loan to another supervisor for this project because my organization couldn't find anyone else who was as good at it as I am.  I've been working on editing and formatting long documents such as this one since I was a temp here, and have, apparently, become the go-to person for getting them done well.  Fortunately for me, there are several long documents produced by my organization that must be updated every few years, which may help me avoid the ax in future rounds of downsizing.

[This post was actually published on November 30, 2014--I put it here to keep it off the top of my screen, thus making it semi-invisible to my co-workers.]


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