Online groups, winter 2008

Documents out of control

One member asked about a satisfactory and cheap method of controlling documents. About 200 maintenance manuals in paper form are being converted to FrameMaker. After a maintenance manual is verified, a PDF copy goes on file, and it is reviewed at six-month intervals. The member has a problem with tracking drafts, reviews, revisions and change requests. He has a basic spreadsheet, but he wants something that anyone can use to view the status of documents and to retrieve the most recent copy of the documents, and something that he can use to track versions (both drafts and revisions).

Another member suffers from uncontrolled documents, and inefficient review and approval procedures. Additionally, it is difficult to access documents, because they are stored in the creator's folders.

Members suggested these tools:

Pseudo-cleft sentences

Which of the following sentences is correct, and why?

Two members referred to Fowler's Modern English Usage. One member thought that it says that you can use the option that sounds correct. Another member thought that it says that the plural is acceptable in cases where there is more than one result.

One option is to change the text. For example, 'It is X and Y that have changed' or 'X and Y have changed'. However, the person who asked the question said that 'X and Y have changed' loses the emphasis.

Usually, we write, 'X and Y have changed'. However, if we want the new information at the end of the sentence, we can use a pseudo-cleft sentence. For example, 'What has changed are X and Y.' This construction puts the focus on 'X and Y', and it obeys the usual pattern of information, where known information is at the start of a sentence and new information is at the end. In the pseudo-cleft part of the sentence, the verb is singular because 'What' is interpreted as a singular thing. Because 'X and Y' is plural, the verb 'are' is used.

For more information about cleft sentences and pseudo-cleft sentences, see Quirk and Greenbaum's University Grammar of English in the chapter about theme, focus and emphasis. Alternatively, a web search can give useful information.

Getting user input in Word

In Microsoft Word, you can get information from a reader by using the FILLIN field. The reader types information into a dialog box, and that information will appear in the Word document. One member wants to get information and put it in both the document title and in a header. She doesn't want to use two FILLIN fields for the same information, and she asked if it is possible to get information once, and then put it in two locations.

A FILLIN field prompts a reader to enter data each time that the field is updated. Usually, for manuals you want to update all the fields before printing, and sometimes, during editing, to keep cross-references and tables of content up to date. Therefore, it is best to avoid a FILLIN field to get a document title. Instead, in the title location, use a placeholder field that shows 'Type title here'. If you want to prompt the reader only when a document is created, use an AutoNew macro to collect the title and put it in a bookmarked location.

A good option is to use a style (for example, DocTitle) for the document title. Then use a StyleRef field in the header to insert the contents of the last instance of the specified style. If there is only one instance of the DocTitle style, all the headers will contain the document title.

For information about repeating data, see


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