Conversations with reticent documents

Sunset, Greenwood

I knew formatting a document for publication was tough. Hours spent getting just one of 11 stories read for the anthology and I find myself having a conversation with myself, with the computer, with, it turns out, the offending document.

“So, we’ve decided that you’re going to be in Garamond. All the way through, from header to footer to everything in between: Garamond,” I say.

“Garamond. Got it. So, you selected it up top, right?”

I sigh. This is at least the tenth time we’ve had this part of the conversation. “Yes. I selected the entire document and chose Garamond as the font.”

“And?” The voice is tauntingly chipper. The document is either trying to drive me to madness, or has the short term memory of a Dave Mathews Band groupie.

“And? And nothing! It doesn’t change the font name in the drop-down menu. It should, because I’ve clearly selected all of the document. It stands to reason that it would then change all of the font.”

“Well, except for the hidden fonts,” it offers helpfully.

“Hidden fonts?”

“Yeah, there are probably a few hidden fonts in there. Might only be used by a single character. Heck. might even just be a space.”

“But a space doesn’t have a font…”

The document blathers on, oblivious. “Doesn’t matter. It’s there. Somewhere.”


“Oh, I couldn’t possibly tell you. Did you go through the whole document looking for changes in the font as you went?”

It knows damn well I did. All 15 pages, character by character from front to back. Nothing. Then I selected the document page by page by page. They all said the same thing. Garamond. “I didn’t see it. It isn’t in the document. But if it isn’t in the document, then why does the font field remain blank when I select the whole document.”

“It’s just hiding. If you can’t see it, why does it matter?”

“Because the printer needs you in a different file type. And when I convert you, it says there are extra fonts. And that’s a show-stopper with the printer. They kick it back to us.”

The document laughs, just like it always does when we get to this point. “Wow! That’s some pickle! Wish I could help you! Have you tried copying all the text, pasting into notepad, then from there back into a clean document?”

Voice choked with tears, I manage a strangled, “Yes.”

“Ah…so no luck there.” There’s a silence as the document seems to be thinking of a solution. “Garamond, you said?”


“Hey, I know,” it offers helpfully. “Try selecting the whole document, then selecting the font you want up top! Maybe it will work this time!”

The scene goes dark to the sound of sobbing. Eventually, the editor will fall off into an alcohol-fueled sleep tinged by dreams where he finds the exacts a vengeance on the programmers who let this “feature” slip through. The vengeance goes on for a long time, and is too gruesome to be discussed in polite company. The editor smiles in his sleep, as if forgetting that the un-formatted document awaits him for another conversation tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Conversations with reticent documents

  1. IIRC you are using the 2010 version.. so this should work.. Click the file tab then choose options. In the options window that opens choose display. Second section down “always show these formatting marks on the screen” choose hidden text .. or better yet when formatting I like to show all formatting marks. (comes from working in source files where tabs were evil… makes me like to see the differences between tabs and spaces as they can print differently).

    Hope this helps.

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