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Smoke and Mirrors Day

Smoke and Mirrors Day

What do you do that others think is like Smoke and Mirrors?

Today March 29th is Smoke and Mirrors day. I know an odd kind of day to mark but it got me thinking. How much of what each of us does appears to be like Smoke and Mirrors or Magic to others?

I was reminded of this recently when helping a client. She had written a huge dissertation, something like 70,000 words! Amazing work. Now all she needed to do was to format it.

The problem was, that she first came to see me when she was half way through and she had not thought through how the document should look.

When working on a very long document, you need to think through a few things and set them up before you start!


I know I have written about Styles before, but you can’t say enough about them. Styles control the way your document looks and behaves and are essential for generating a Table of Contents.

Now my client, sat with me for a few hours whilst we went through the whole document. Deciding what the Heading levels were and how they should look and how many levels of heading styles there would be too.

We set them all up along with a couple of other styles needed for making things stand out in a particular way.

So far so good. Off my client went to write some more and finish a couple of sections.

A couple of weeks later she was back. She had added several chapters and a lot more words and was very conscious that she would need to cull or rewrite. So we set about fixing the rest up.

Oh No

When left to her own devices, my client had forgotten some of what we had done. As a result, she had forgotten to apply the Styles we had so lovingly created and had simply applied direct formatting.

So what is direct formatting?

Glad you asked. Direct Formatting is when you apply bold or italic or change the font or size or colour to a selected piece of text. When you do this, the text is not in a Style and the Table of Contents will not find it. Apart from that, she had applied styles to images in the document or tables and they were now showing up in the Table of Contents.

Here is where Smoke and Mirrors come in

Together we were able to go through the document on her last visit (her third) and apply the correct Styles to the headings. When things appeared in the Table of Contents that shouldn’t have, I was able to work out why and correct it. My client really thought it was magic.

It was not Smoke and Mirrors or Magic, just that I have invested a lot of time and effort in learning how Microsoft Office works! I know the ins and outs and I also have the ability to transfer that knowledge so that my clients and students can go on to create amazing work in each of the Microsoft Office packages, be that Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook.

Courses for all

Of course, I can’t write all this without reminding you that I have a whole school of courses including one called Work Smarter with Style! ( available for both Windows or Mac) this course will teach you everything you need to know about using modifying and creating Styles in Microsoft Word.

You can find the courses here

What do you do that others think is like Smoke and Mirrors? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time….


Get my FREE User Guide – How to Use Mail Merge in Word 2016

Get my FREE User Guide – How to Use Mail Merge in Word 2016

Mail Merge

How to Use Mail Merge in Word 2016 -  Free User Guide

Do you feel like the image above when you need to mail merge a whole bunch of people? Makes your head ache right? Where do you start and what kind of merge do you do and what is this Mail Merge thing anyway?

Well I was asked in a Facebook Group I belong to, if I have a blog post on How to Perform a Mail Merge and I had to admit that I have not yet written one. I have however written a book about Microsoft Word 2016 which I use with my classroom based students and there is an extensive section on Mail Merge included.

What Makes Up a Mail Merge?

A mail merge is made up of three elements.

mail merge

The source document

Word Document – create a document that can be sent to many different people

Email message – when you need to create a standard email that goes to many recipients and each one needs to be personalised or addressed to each individual, then a mail merge is the way to go.

The list

You can have the list of the data in:

  •  A Word Table
  • An Excel Spreadsheet
  •  Outlook Contacts

The Merge

Once you have the list and the document you can go ahead and create the Merged Document.

Mail Merge from an Excel List

The first step is to set up your data list in Excel. Perhaps you have inherited one, or it may have been exported from a database. You may also need to do some cleaning up of the structure of the data.

In your Excel list, you need Headings at the top of each column. Each column represents a field. A field in the merge document is a placeholder for text that changes with each record. A record is all the information held about each individual person in the list.

Here is a snapshot of my data

mail merge

Now that I have a list, I can get on with creating the document and the merge process.

DOWNLOAD: Using Mail Merge in Word 2016 to Personalise Your Mailings

The Mailings Ribbon

The starting point for your mailing is the Mailings Ribbon.

Mail Merge

The first two icons are for creating Envelopes and Labels – will discuss those separately they are for individual envelopes or a sheet of just one label. The mail merge process moves from left to right through the ribbon depending on where you are up to in the process.

Mail Merge

Start Mail Merge – this button is where you set what type of document you are creating for this merge. Your choices are:

mail merge

Create a letter

Start the Mail Merge and select Letters from the drop-down list.

Nothing much appears to happen. Next step is to Select the Recipients so that Word knows where to go and fetch the data from. There is a choice of three options for the data.

Mail merge

Type a new List – this will pop up a form for you to fill in and create a list on the fly – it’s ok for small lists, however in most cases you will already have a large list stored elsewhere.

Use an Existing List – this is what we are doing here as the list already exists in Excel.

Choose from Outlook Contacts – this is where we can pull our data in from information held in Outlook People.

In this example click Chose Existing List.

Navigate to where the list is stored and select it. Word may direct you to a folder where it stores Data Connections, however you can store your list where ever you wish.

mail merge

As this list is in an Excel Workbook, Word will prompt you to select the correct worksheet or range.

mail mefge

Note the check box that says First row of data contains column headers – this is very important You should have a row of column headers in the spreadsheet that are formatted differently to the rest of the data.

Edit Recipients

The list that you have may be very large and it is possible that you do not need to write to everyone on the list. Word allows for this and there is an option to exclude recipients.

Mail Merge

Untick anyone you wish to exclude from this mailing.

Use the tools provided to filter and sort the data and to validate the addresses or find duplicates.

mail merge

DOWNLOAD: Using Mail Merge in Word 2016 to Personalise Your Mailings

Build up the Letter

Now we need to build the structure of the letter and let Word know where to put the fields that will be different for each recipient.

Insert Merge Fields

Merge Fields are the placeholders or codes that tell Word which information to pull in from your list.

There are several options for adding them.

mail merge fields

Address Block 

This inserts a whole block in a specified format which you can choose. Click on Address Block and you will see the following dialogue box enabling you to test out how you want things to look.

mail merge

Greeting Line

The greeting line is a pre-set line of introductory text to your letter. You set how you want this to start by picking the relevant options

Mail merge

You can choose whether it says Dear or To and then choose the greeting line for recipients where you don’t have enough information.

Insert Merge Fields

My personal favourite is to insert the individual Merge Fields in the location that I want them in the document. This gives me complete control over how things look.

Place the cursor where the Merge Field should go and then choose it from the list.

mail merge

What do the fields look like?

The fields will look a bit odd when you first see them. To see the information they relate to you will need to preview the results.

Address block and Greeting Line

mail merge

Merge Fields

mail merge

Preview Results

Click on Preview Results in the Mailings Ribbon and Word will show you how the finished Merge will look.

Mail Merge

DOWNLOAD: Using Mail Merge in Word 2016 to Personalise Your Mailings

Finish and Merge

This is it! You have created your merge document have previewed it and now are ready to finish it off.

mail merge


When the document has been merged, a new document is created. This is called Letters1 (each time you do this the number may change). The merged result can be printed. However, it should not be saved. It is a larger document than the original merge document and if you intend to send this out later, the names to whom you send it may have changed or been added to.

Each time you perform the merge, the most up to date list is used so if you keep on adding or taking people out of the data list, the result will be different.

Mail Merge

What should I save?

Save the data list – you can continue to update it.

Save the document with the merge fields in – this is then ready for you to perform the merge at any time. The merge fields keep the document connected to the data source and so the end result will always be up to date.

Discard the Letters1 document – it only takes a moment to recreate.

Wait there is more!

In this post I have shown you how to use Mail Merge to create a letter when the data source is in Excel. There are other types of merge. You can merge to email, to a directory - where each line has the same structure - great for a catalogue for example. Your data list can be a Table in Word, an Excel List or Outlook Contacts.

To see how to do all of those download my free User Guide which includes everything here, plus loads more.

Once you have seen how to perform a Mail Merge you will be up and running.

Do you work with a VA?

When you have so many tasks to do to run your business, working with a VA makes a lot of sense. Sending out a mailing is one of those tasks than can easily be outsourced to a Virtual Assistant.

Download the Free User Guide and save it on your system or print it off so that you can refer to it next time you need to perform a Mail Merge - or get one for your VA!

DOWNLOAD: Using Mail Merge in Word 2016 to Personalise Your Mailings

Why do you need a lead magnet?

Why do you need a lead magnet?

Why do you need a lead magnet

First off – what is a Lead Magnet?

A Lead Magnet is something that helps you to grow your email list. If you are selling a product or a service, then you will be growing your list of people to sell to. Subscribers to your list are already interested in what you have to say so that makes offering them other information and products much easier.

Types of Lead Magnet you will find:Types of Lead Magnet

  • Checklist
  • Free PDF
  • Report
  • eBook
  • Video
  • Tutorial

In fact, anything that your readers and ideal client will find of use. The more useful the better!

Why do I need one?

If you want to generate leads online, then your business needs a lead magnet. People just won’t give you their email address and let you into their Inbox unless they feel that what you are offering is of value to them. To promote your business, it’s your job to offer a fantastic Lead Magnet.

What does my Lead Magnet Need to Do?

Solve a problem – give your idea reader the solution to a problem they are struggling with.

Promises a Quick Win – It should help them easily achieve something

It should be super specific – the more specific the Lead Magnet the better it will work

Instantly Accessible – your reader should gain access to the Lead Magnet just as soon as they have given you their details.

Demonstrate your expertise – A great Lead Magnet will demonstrate that you are the expert and the right person for the job.

Can I use Microsoft Word to Create One?

Well as a Lead Magnet is usually a checklist, whitepaper, report or eBook, you can use Microsoft Word to create it and then save it as a PDF so that people can download it easily.

Microsoft Word has all the tools you need to enable you to create an awesome Lead Magnet or eBook.

You can set up your template to include your brand elements, colours, logos, fonts etc. Then use all the different tools available to you such as adding Tables, Pictures, Icons, Smart Art. Then you have automatic features like AutoCorrect and AutoText which will help you speed up when you have standard paragraphs or blocks to add.

If you are offering an eBook as a Lead Magnet, then you may want to include a Table of Contents and/ or and Index.

But Shelley – that sounds like an awful lot of tools that I have never used!

If you are not sure what some of those things are and would like to learn more, I have you covered – well you would expect that wouldn’t you?

Create eBooks and Lead Magnets with Ease is my latest course. It includes all the tools mentioned above and you will walk away being able to create any kind of eBook or Lead Magnet.

In just two and a half hours you will learn how to:

  • Change the Paper Size and what it means for your margins
  • Adjust the page margins
  • Add Headers and Footers
  • Add Section Breaks and have different headers and footers for different sections of your document
  • Add Page Numbers
  • Table of Contents and Index
  • AutoCorrect and AutoText
  • Add and Style Pictures and Icons

And so much more.

Get the course

You can get your hands on this course and create fabulous eBooks and Lead Magnets with Ease. Simply head over to: Create eBooks and Lead Magnets with Ease.

What kind of Lead Magnets will you create?

How to use Word 2016 like an Auto Cue

How to use Word 2016 like an Auto Cue

Auto CueHow to use Word like an Auto Cue

I get asked questions from time to time and I love going off to see if I can answer them – here is a question I had from Kevin Arrow of The Business Success Dojo:

Is it possible in office to have a document and when you read the document for voice recognition to scroll down the page as you read it like an autocue system?

The answer is – Yes and No!

You can set Word up to automatically scroll the document so that you can read it to camera, it is not using the voice recognition which is in fact built in to Windows. However let’s say you have written the script for a video and you are recording it to camera, you can set Word to auto scroll so that you can read the words out loud whilst looking at the camera. Nifty!

Add AutoScroll to the Ribbon

Start off by adding the Auto Scroll button to the Ribbon.

Right click on an empty part of the ribbon and select customise the Ribbon

Auto Scroll like an autocue

Now when you see the Customise the Ribbon dialogue box make sure to select All Commands from the drop down list on the left.

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

Then go down the list until you see AutoScroll

On the right hand side, click New Group and then add the Auto Scroll button to the new group you just created and click OK.

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

All Commands (1) Auto Scroll (2) New Group (3) See the New Group (4) click Add (5) Auto Scroll added to the New Group (6) Click OK (7)

It will now show on the Ribbon.

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

To use Auto Scroll

Click on the Auto Scroll button

You will see a dot with an arrow above and an arrow below

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

As you move the cursor down a little bit the document will start to scroll slowly allowing you to read the content to camera ( or wherever you need to!)

Auto Scroll like and Autocue

That’s it. Hope that helped Kevin!

Do let me know in the comments below how this will help. I love to hear from my readers especially if something I write is of use.

Dictation in Word 2016 for Windows

Dictation in Word 2016 for Windows

Dictation in Word 2016New Dictation feature

A new feature showed up on my Home Ribbon the other day. I was intrigued and decided to investigate.

Here is a screen shot of the new Dictate Button.

Hmm I thought does it do what it seems to suggest?

I clicked and then the magic started:

I am now at dictating. Having started to dictate the button gets a red stop button on the front. I just dictated all of that. It’s magic.

I must admit there is a slight delay, however I think this is a fab addition to the toolset that Microsoft keeps adding. Really useful for accessibility and helping people to get text onto the page in new ways without needing to configure lots of other applications.

What do you think? Leave a comment below 🙂

How to add a cover page to Word 2016 for Windows

How to add a cover page to Word 2016 for Windows

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Finish off your report with a Cover Page

You have written a large brilliant report and you need a cover page to finish it off. Word helpfully comes with an option to add a cover page. Not only can you add one of the pre-designed cover pages, you can modify them to suit your needs and colour scheme. Or you can create your own and save it to the Cover Page Gallery.

Here is how

  1. Click on the Insert Ribbon
  2. Chose Cover Page

You will see a range of ready to use Cover Pages. If you are using your own Theme and have changed the colours in the colour scheme, the colours of the Cover Page will use your theme. If you use a new document without a design, they will use the standard Microsoft Word colours.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Insert (1) Cover Page (2) Select design (3) Find more on or delete from gallery (4)

Choose the cover page you want to add, and it will be inserted into the document.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Simply complete the fields with the information such as Title, Subtitle, Company name date etc.

Modify the Cover Page

If you wish to modify what the cover page looks like simply make the changes on screen.

Here I have selected the filigree and chosen to change the colour

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

I have also added in the tomorrow’s VA logo. Now I want to save this version of the cover page.

  1. Select all the content on the Cover Page
  2. Click on the Insert Ribbon
  3. Click the drop down under Cover Page
  4. Choose Save Selection to Cover Page Gallery

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Name the new cover page – note that it is stored in the Cover Pages Gallery within the Building Blocks Organisor.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

See your new cover page

You will find your new cover page at the bottom of the Cover Page Gallery where you can choose to insert it.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Remove Cover Page

If you decide that you no longer need a cover page in this document, simply click on Remove Current Cover Page from the Insert Cover Page dialogue.

Delete Cover Page for good

If you decide that you no longer want to see this cover page, then you can delete it from the gallery.

On the Insert ribbon click on Quick Parts and choose Building Blocks Organizer.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

Within the Organizer find the cover page you want to delete, select it and click Delete.

Cover Page Word 2016 Windows

It will now be removed completely.

How will you use this in your documents? Will you be creating your own cover pages to use for reports?