Power Tools for Technical Communication:
Creating Templates for Business Letters


As you know from Chapter 13 of Power Tools for Technical Communication, you use templates for documents such as memos, business letters that have a common format, style, and content. Instead of having to define margins and fonts and manually type the same text every time you write one of these documents, you use a template.

Exploring Templates

Word-processing applications like Corel WordPerfect, Lous Word Pro, and Microsoft Word provide you with a nice array of templates. To see how templates work, try this in Word:
  1. Start Word.

  2. Click File > New and then click on one of the supplied templates (such as Elegant Letter.dot, Elegant Fax.dot, Contemporary Letter.dot, or Contemporary Fax.dot). Notice that you get a preview of the template in the right portion of the dialog.

  3. With the Document radio button chcked, click OK.

  4. Now you have a new document that uses the template you selected. You'll see all of that "stuff" that you saw in the preview. It's your job now to fill in the blanks and change whatever needs to be changed.

  5. There's nothing magic about templates. Open one up and you'll see exactly what you saw in the preceding example in which you "used" a template. If you open a template file directly, you can edit it. (In Word, templates end with the .dot extension.)

  6. Notice that templates have "fields" usually with wording like "Click here...." These fields are connected to macros. Click on one of these fields; notice the entire thing highlights. Search around in Word menus for the Toggle Field Codes button (it may be available through the right mouse button when it is positioned over the field).

  7. It's out of our scope here to discuss how to create these embedded macros, but if you click Tools > Macros, select NoMacro and click Edit, you'll see the Visual Basic coding:

    Public Sub NoMacro() End Sub


  8. Also explore the "styles" in a template. The phrase Company Name in the illustration below is a style: it uses 30pt Times New Roman and has a 5pt top margin and a 30pt bottom margin, among other things. Explore some of the other styles: click Format > Paragraph to see margin and alignment setting and Format > Font to see font settings.

  9. Notice the gray image of the earth floating in the background of the Contemporary Letter template. Double-click on it and you go to the background of this template. Click on the earth; when the handles appear, you can drag it anywhere on the document you want. Notice that the gray header and footer as well as the dots are all graphic or text boxes on this background part of the template.

Creating Your Own Templates

But what's to keep you from creating your own templates? Nothing! You gain more control over your software (rather than it over you). An easy way to create your own templates is to edit existing ones and save them with a different name. Use the following steps to create your own template:
  1. Start your word-processing application (we'll use Word for the following example).

  2. Click File > New, in the dialog box check Template, and click OK.

  3. First of all, set up the page margins: click File > Page Setup and set 1.5 inches for top, bottom, left and right margins.

  4. Set a page number, bottom center. Use 9pt Arial for the font of that page number.

  5. While you are in the "background" of the template, put in an image in the background:

    1. Create a textbox anywhere on the page, with the textbook selected, right-click the mouse, select Format Text Box, and set the line and fill color to No line and No fill, respectively.

    2. Click Insert > Picture > Clip Art and select one of the images.

    3. Move the text box containing the graphic up to the top corner of the page, overlapping the page number header box.

    4. Size the actual graphic box to about 1.5 inches. Click the Close button on the Header/footer menubar.

  6. To set up the text part of the letterhead, create another textbox with no fill and no lines, and type the name of the company, its address, and other contact information, using these settings

    • Company name: 14pt Comic Sans MS bold italic
    • Other information: 8pt Arial

  7. Create a date field that will automatically display the current date whenever you use this template. To make things easy, open one of the existing templates such as Contemporary Letter.dot, highlight the date, copy it, an then paste it into your own template.

  8. Center this date, and put 24 points of margin before it (to get some space between the letterhead and the date).

  9. Make a style out of this element: click Format > Style, click New, name it pttc_date, and click OK.

  10. To create the inside address, borrow from the Word template again. Highlight the Inside Address element, copy it and, paste it in your template. However, change its settings as follows: with your cursor on the date line, click Format > Paragraph, and set the Before margin to 24 points; click Format > Font and set the font to 10pt Arial.

  11. Create the salutation (24 points Before margin, 10pt Arial), body (12 points Before margin, 10pt Arial), closing (12 points Before margin, 10pt Arial), signature (48 points Before margin, 10pt Arial), and title (0 points Before margin, 10pt Arial). You may want to copy the elements from the existing template, paste them into your template, and make the changes to the fonts and margins.

  12. Now, go back and add text to the saluation, the body, and the closing.

  13. Save this template, making sure that it includes the .dot extension and that it saves into the Templates directory.

  14. Now, test the template out! Start a new file: click File > New and "use" your new template. You should see all your work in the new document that opens up.


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