Tech Tip: Word comma usage/Highlight urgent Excel items/Restrict Access date entries

Word: Correct comma use

Are your users sticklers about using correct grammar and punctuation in the documents they write or edit? If so, they've probably learned (and informed you) that Word's built-in grammar checker doesn't always catch the punctuation errors that users find themselves.

There's only one way to be absolutely, positively sure that documents don't contain extraneous commas, and that's by reviewing every comma in the document. Here's how.

Press [Ctrl]H to open the Find And Replace dialog box. In the Find What field, type a comma, leave the Replace With field blank, and click the Find Next button. When Word locates the first occurrence, inspect the text to make sure you've used the comma correctly.

If you decide that the comma is extraneous, click the Replace button. Word will replace that comma with "nothing" and search for the next comma in the document. If you determine that you've used the comma correctly, click the Find Next button, and continue your review.

That process helps you identify superfluous commas. Missing commas, on the other hand, are another story. Your users will have to proofread their text the old-fashioned way to locate places where commas are necessary.

Excel: Highlight urgent items

Here's a tip for your Excel users who've always wanted to use the Wingdings font in a worksheet but couldn't think of a compelling reason to do so. Suppose they're responsible for maintaining the master to-do list for their team or department, and they e-mail everyone a copy on a weekly basis.

What can they do to make it easier for everyone to notice the most important items on the lists? If the worksheet contains a "severity" or "priority" column, they can make the most important items stand out by sorting them to the top of the list.

Or they can introduce a graphical element to their spreadsheet by flagging those urgent items. For example, the "lit fuse" icon you get when you format a capital M in the Wingdings font is a good choice.

To try out this trick, type M in a cell. With the cell selected, go to Format | Cells | Font. Choose Wingdings from the Font list, select red from the Color list, choose 18 from the Size list, and click OK. The result is an icon that's guaranteed to catch the reader's eye when you really want them to pay attention to that row.

Access: Restrict date entries

Access users often need to restrict a date field's entries to days of the traditional workweek, excluding Saturday and Sunday dates. To help them out, teach them to use a validation rule that rejects dates that fall on the weekends.

To demonstrate this technique, open any table that contains a date field in Design view, and select the date field that you want to add the validation rule to. On the General tab of the Field Properties, enter the following for the Validation Rule property:


In the Validation Text property, be sure to enter a user-friendly message, such as "The date you entered is a Saturday or Sunday. Please enter a date corresponding to a weekday." Otherwise, your users will see the standard validation rule error message, which won't explain why the entry is invalid.

Here's how this works: The DatePart function returns a number from 1 to 7, corresponding to the days of the week. A Saturday date returns 1, and a Sunday date returns 2. Therefore, checking for a value that's greater than 2 eliminates any entry that equals 1 or 2.

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