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Spotting Text Messages

Spotting Text Messages

Text messages lost in your final manuscript as you’re trying to finalize your ebook and paperback? I can help you find them.

You just finished editing and proofing your novel, imported it into your favorite book-creation software, and all the special formatting you used to denote text messages is suddenly gone. Poof. Those precious messages turned into regular old text and you can’t find all 76 text messages. There was even one where your main character nearly said I love you but chickened out, then accidentally sent the unfinished message of “I lo.”

Formatted as regular old text, readers may wonder why the narration changed, or worse, be pulled out of the story because these lines don’t look like every other text in the book.

When you search for “I lo” in your document, 149 results come up. You don’t have time for this. Reviewers are waiting on ARCs, your narrator needs the final copy, and oh right, you have to get this book uploaded to Amazon before midnight or you’ll lose your privilege to post preorders for who knows how long.

What can you do to help avoid this situation from happening in the future?

First, use a different font for all text messages.

I suggest Arial for a few reasons. It’s standard across most writing software. Since it’s sans serif, it stands out next to Times New Romans’ serifs. That makes it easier to spot if you come back to fix this after drafting. Choosing Arial will also save you time because it starts with an A. No scrolling down font lists to find Verdana (nothing against Verdana; it’s a beautiful font).

Second, import your finalized manuscript into your book-creation software.

There are many options available in the styles on your software that you’ll want to take advantage of there. See how your Arial texts imported. Maybe they did just fine, but can you spot all 76 messages easily? Fear not!

Third, make those text messages electric in Word.

Return to Word and run an Advanced Find for the font Arial in the main document. Once all instances of Arial have been found, highlight them in a color you’ve not used yet. The brighter the better, in my humble opinion.

Your text messages will now show up in fuchsia or red or violet highlights so they’re easy to spot. Refer to your highlighted Word document to ensure you don’t miss a single text message in your final book.

That’s the TL:DR version. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  • Ensure all text messages are in Arial font
  • Find each instance of Arial in your document: Edit > Find > Advanced Find and Replace
  • Expand the caret (v) to reveal Format. Select Font under that.
  • A new Find Font window opens. Select Arial, then click OK
  • Select box beside “Highlight all items found in” and make sure Main Document is selected, then click Find All
  • This will bring you back to your main document where all your text messages will be selected. Highlight these in a color you’ve not used yet.

Open the caret (v). Under Format, select Font.

Under Font, select Arial. Then click OK.

Select Highlight in Main Document, then click Find All.

Now the text messages are easy to spot, even at 10% magnification.

Fourth, ensure every highlighted text message is formatted correctly in your final book.

This is an insurance plan more than anything. Go back and forth to make sure each text message is using the style you want in your software. You may have text messages inline with narration. In that case, you’re able to make sure the messages are formatted to your preferences: sans serif, italics, bold, monospace, or however you want.

This is a tool you can use for any special formatting. Want to ensure all your letters in your epistolary are formatted the same? Instead of using Font to highlight, you can an Advanced Find for Style and choose Block Quote.

Now that you have an easier way to keep track of text messages and other bits and bobs that need differential formatting, I hope you’ll find formatting your books more enjoyable.

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