Using MS Word templates to define your house style
What is a word template?
A document containing pre-defined styles and page layout for a particular class of documents (e.g. agreements, letters, invoices) to ensure a consistent layout across an organisation.
Note the distinction between the technical Microsoft Word (Word) term "template", a file with a ".dot" extension containing a number of styles and document settings, and the general concept of a template which refers to a standard model for producing a class of documents.
Components of a template (for legal agreements)
The highest level is global document settings:
Paper size (e.g. A4, letter).
Page set up including page margins (left, right, top, bottom, gutter), and header and footer margins.
Header and footer layout (these may include page numbers, file path, the document name etc).
It is possible to divide a document into different sections and have different page set ups for each section.
This may consist of:
Coversheet (which may incorporate a firm logo).
Table of Contents.
Main body of agreement.
This will usually consist of a number of headings in distinct styles (see Defining a particular style or section of text) and precise spacing.
Table of Contents
This will be defined in terms of a TOC field code and a number of Word TOC styles, which set out:
The headings to include in the TOC and
The style in which the TOC elements appear in the Word document.
Main body of agreement
The template should define the structure of the agreement components and their rendering. For example, the structure of the PLC agreement template and the rendering of its components are as follows:
Paragraph [NB: PLC agreements do not have titles below Sub-clause 1 level]
For each component of the agreement there needs to be a corresponding representation in the firm's template. This representation is visually achieved by a combination of indentation, numbering and font characteristics. There are three ways to achieve this:
By using the built in Word styles Heading1 - 6. For example, the firm template could use Heading1 for the clause title, Heading2 for the first subclause1 paragraph etc.
By using custom defined styles, e.g. a style Clausetitle could be used for displaying clause titles.
By using Normal text with specific style characteristics (in practice a level of numbering, indentation and font characteristics).
The first two are more sophisticated ways of enforcing a consistent firm style because they:
Separate logical and physical style definitions.
Enable changes to be made globally to the look and feel of a firm's documents.
Make it easier to convert between Word and other formats because the source document is more structured.
Enable the use of the 'Style for the following paragraph' style definition which, for example, can be used to automatically follow a Heading 1 paragraph with a Heading 2 one.
Some firms prefer using normal text throughout, as they consider that it requires a lower level of training and skill for their lawyers and secretaries to use. The major drawback with this method is that it is much harder to ensure that the original look and feel is maintained during subsequent rounds of drafting.
Defining a particular style or section of text
At a micro level the agreement's paragraph and character styles consist of a number of components:
Style for the following paragraph (see above).
Font: family, size, colour, effects (e.g. small caps, strikethrough).
Paragraph: Indentation, spacing (before and after), outline level, alignment (e.g. centred, justified), line and page breaks. Special indentation may be defined for hanging and first line text.
Border, language and frame: will rarely be useful for agreements.
Bullets (rarely useful for agreements) and Numbering: may be linked to a pre-defined Word default in three basic categories-bulleted, numbered or outline numbered. Alternatively the numbering style may be customised which enables the bullet character, or the numbering format, font, spacing, size etc to be user defined. This is itself a huge and complex topic (see www.mvps.org/word/FAQs/Numbering/WordsNumberingExplained.htm for a detailed discussion of the issues).
These may be divided into parts, subdivided into the clause/subclause1 etc hierarchy or consist of paragraphs. It is possible to define specific styles for clauses in the schedules or use the same ones as in the operative part of the agreement. The second option requires the numbering to be restarted at the beginning of each schedule
Introduction, Testimonium, Signature
These may be defined with separate styles or use Normal text with certain textual characteristics. A table may be used to represent the signature clause.
The firm may decide to use dynamic cross-references which automatically update when a document clause is added or deleted or static cross-references which are updated manually.
These have a slightly different structure to a regular clause and the firm style may be to use a table or tabs as opposed to a regular style. The text effects may also be distinctive, applying bold for example to the defined term.
Word does not have specific style names for table, but there are a number of formatting parameters which may be defined (e.g. table alignment, cell widths, borders, etc.)
Differences in textual content
A firm's style can embrace aspects of document presentation which go to the textual content of a precedent. A basic rule of thumb is to decide whether the content outputted is determined by the firm and is a general rule for all documents, or differs from document to document. When a firm chooses to set its agreements up in "classic" or "modern" style, it is broadly making a presentational choice. (Classic style uses introductory phrases such as This Agreement is made on.." "Whereas the parties hereto have agreed as follows ". Modern uses "This agreement is dated and Agreed Terms".)
Certain aspects of classic or modern style content can be included in a template (and can be handled in PLC FirmStyle). These include:
Aspects of punctuation (such as whether or not tohave full stops at the end of a clause paragraph).
displaying clause titles in capital letters or lowercase.
format of inverted commas (e.g. use of 'smart quotes').
specific firm wording in the introduction and testimonium clauses.
specific layout and wording for execution in specific cases (e.g. when the executing party is a company and the agreement is being executed as a deed).
The website www.mvps.org/word contains a wealth of useful information. In particular, there is an extensive tutorial on Word Templates at www.mvps.org/word/FAQs/Customization/CreateATemplatePart2.htm and the article explaining Word Numbering referred to above.