Word Tip: Inserted Picture in Word is Cut Off by Preceding and Following Paragraphs

A coworker asked for my help with this issue. He was working in a document that he had received from someone else. He placed the cursor in front of a paragraph, pressed ENTER, then inserted a picture. He could see the outline of the picture when the picture was selected, but only a small piece of the picture appeared in the line where he had placed it:

Exactly12ptPict

He checked the picture layout (i.e., Text Wrapping > Behind Text), and everything was fine. Then he asked for my help.

I selected the paragraph into which the picture was inserted. Then I opened the Paragraph dialog box to check the line spacing:

ParagraphExactly

The Line spacing was set to “Exactly 12 pt” which means no matter what he did to the picture, it was only going to show exactly 12 points of it. Changing the Line Spacing to “Single” allowed the entire picture to appear:

WholePic

Why did this even happen? For some reason, that document’s “Normal” style had line spacing set at exactly 12 points. There really is no reason for this in “regular” documentation. If you were doing something fancy with layout, you might want to adjust the line spacing. But plain old “single” spacing is usually fine for most documents, and that line spacing will adjust automatically depending on the font size. (The same reason that you do NOT have to double space after a period!)

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What’s the grammar rule for this?

I’ve been asked questions like this numerous times. The person asking wants a black or white ruling, but the “correct” usage is often very gray. And very often, there is no “rule” but rather a choice to make, either on the part of the author or the editor.

The Chicago Manual of Style has a Q&A section each month in its online version of the guide. This is from the April 2013 Q&A section:

Q. Where in the manual will I find guidance to answer the question whether the adverb structurally in the phrase “structurally modify or upgrade” qualifies only the verb modify or both the verbs modify and upgrade? I have looked at paragraphs 5.143 through 5.161 (15th ed.) but don’t perceive the guidance I need.

A. Alas—the great and powerful manual cannot tell you what this writer was thinking. The only way to know for sure is to ask him or her. If you don’t have access to the writer, then you will have to settle for ambiguity. If you need to know the exact meaning because you’re involved in a lawsuit whose outcome depends on the technical meaning of this phrase, you’re at the mercy of the judge. If you are the judge, well, good luck.

So how do I decide what is the “right” answer? If I am not the author, I ask the author for more information. If I am the author or the editor, I try to write the sentence a different way to see if that changes the meaning or intention of the sentence. I review my source material to be sure I understand what it is I’m supposed to be writing about.

When I was studying French in college, the professor would ask us to answer a question about usage, and then ask why we think our answer was correct. The point was to help us learn how to apply the variety of rules one needs to know to speak (or write) French without sounding like a 2-year-old French child. I don’t recall the exact question now (having to do with liasion), but I gave my answer and then the professor asked, “Why?” I replied that “it just sounds right.” I heard mumblings from fellow students about how stupid my answer was, but the professor said, “Yes! You got it! It sounds right to you, because you’ve absorbed the rule and can apply it instinctively!” (Then he proceeded to ask the mumblers to cite the rule.)

Every day, we apply “rules” of grammar, sentence structure, and style based on our experiences. If we had to “look up” everything, we’d never speak, let alone get any writing published. Those of us who have studied grammar, sentence structure, style, etc. write and edit based on years of writing and editing a variety of works, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and remembering the corrections. I can’t cite every rule (I wasn’t an English major), but I know enough about it that if you need a ruling, I can Google the answer for you. (Or better yet, Google it yourself. You’ll remember it better that way!)

We don’t always have a written rule to follow. Styles don’t follow rules (other than the rules set by the person who wrote the style guide.) Do you think e. e. cummings followed rules and styles? Of course he did! But it was a style of his own making, which is not wrong (in poetry) when you apply the style consistently. Usually, we follow the rules for the type of writing that we are writing or editing. That is, the rules for writing technical user guides are not the same as the rules for writing poems or advertising copy (“Got milk?”).

And sometimes we have to go with our gut—or with whatever looks or sounds right.

Why has affected been impacted?

Listening to the news coverage of Hurricane Irene is giving me a headache:

“Sports Events Impacted by Irene”
“Business Impacted by Irene”
“updates from governors and emergency managers in impacted areas”
“travel impacted by Irene”
“millions could be impacted by Irene”
“How you can help turtles impacted by Irene”

I was taught that wisdom teeth can be impacted and meteorites can impact the Earth, but people are “affected.”

I think the problem comes from people’s confusion over “affected” and “effected.” Just like “who” and “whom,” no one is going to convince native English speakers that there is a difference between impacted and affected. And even the Chicago Manual of Style says that it’s OK to use impacted in this way. When it comes to informal speech or writing, pretty much anything goes, as long as your audience understands you. But formal writing is different. My definition of formal writing includes user guides, journals and newspapers, white papers, really any sort of business writing, and certainly academic writing.

According to most dictionaries, “impact” is a stronger word than “affect,” indicating “strike forcefully” (as in a meteorite) or to “fix firmly by packing or wedging” (as when a molar is unable to breach the gum surface). But they also list the definition “to have a direct effect or impact on” which is how most news sources and marketing writers use it. (Really? “Impact” means to have an “impact”?)

My main complaint with using impact(ed) in place of affect(ed) is that it is over used. While watching the news this morning, a reporter was describing an area affected by Hurricane Irene. She used impact and impacted in almost every sentence. At least change it up a bit and use different words to make it less grating on the ears.

Well, my ears, anyway. I know I’m unusual. When I write or edit for my job, I try to remove most of the instances of impact, simply because it sounds/reads bad if you use the same word over and over (unless you’re writing poetry or songs). Here’s an example of academic writing that overuses the word, from http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/socasp/weather1/pielke.html. (I highlighted every instance of “impact” in the article.)

Most people wouldn’t notice that and couldn’t care less. However, when I read writing like the example above, the message is lost on me, because I’m focused on what I would consider to be errors.

You know how sometimes you’re reading something and you stop, then read it again, and maybe again, before you can understand what the writer is trying to say? That’s noise. When you write or edit, your mission is to generate a message that is clear and concise and has no noise that would distract your readers from the message. Impact screams out at me from the page, radio, or TV so loudly that I have forgotten what the story was about.