Power Tools for Technical Communication:
Creating Templates for Memos


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. For the memo heading (DATE:, TO:, FROM:, SUBJ.:), use the following settings: 14 pt Arial Black, 3pt After (margin), 0.7 left tab. Press Tab and type recipient, sender, and subject, respectively, and change the font to 12pt Times New Roman.

  5. 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, return to this memo template, press Tab, and then paste it (set the font to 12pt Times New Roman if necessary).

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

  7. To set up the identifier "MEMORANDUM," click View > Header and Footer, create a textbox with no lines but a gray fill, type "MEMORANDUM," and set the font to 18pt Technical. Also, set the character spacing: with your cursor on the text, click Format > Font, click the Character Spacing tab, select Expanded as the Spacing, and set it to 1.3pt.

  8. Set up the body text by creating a memo paragraph style: use 0 left and right margins, 12pt After margins, and 12pt Times New Roman font. Give this element a style name such as memo_paragraph.

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

  10. 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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