Author Archives: mattbin

Five Essential Word Keyboard Shortcuts

If you do a lot of writing, you’ll know how important it is to get into a flow. Once the words are rushing out, you don’t want to interrupt your rhythm in any way. That means you want to keep your hands on the keyboard. Stopping to use the mouse takes too long, is often imprecise, and worst of all, it breaks up that flow.

Some keyboard shortcuts are very well known: Ctrl-P prints the document, Ctrl-S saves it, and Ctrl-Z undoes the last thing you did. (Quick tip – did you know that Ctrl-Y is the opposite of Ctrl-Z? it redoes whatever you just undid.)

But Word is equipped with a number of other keyboard shortcuts, and some of them make annoying tasks easy and instantaneous. Here are five shortcuts that I personally use almost every time I am writing or editing a document.

Remove Formatting

Sometimes you copy text from another document, or a web page, and it’s got a bunch of bolding, underlining, text sizes, and fonts. Or sometimes you just get a little carried away with the formatting options yourself.

If you want to strip all the formatting out of some text, select the text, and hit Crtl-Space. The text returns to the basic text settings for the style that’s applied to it. The nice thing is that you don’t have to pick through whatever formatting changes were made one by one – they’re all stripped away at once.

Move Paragraph

Organization is key to good writing, and that means you can make a lot of changes to a document as you write – moving blocks of text from one section to another, reordering lists, and so on. It can be slow and cumbersome to do it by cutting and pasting paragraphs repeatedly, and it’s easy to misplace some text by cutting it and forgetting to paste it.

Here’s the solution: Alt-Shift-up and down arrow moves text above the last paragraph, or below the next one. Press it multiple times and you’ll watch your text whiz up and down the document.

You don’t even have to select a paragraph; Word moves the whole paragraph that your cursor is currently in. If you have to move items in a list around, this is the easiest and surest way to do it.

But if you do select multiple paragraphs, Word can work with that, too: it moves the entire selected block of text up and down in the same way.

Change Case

Maybe you’ve got a block of words in ALL CAPITALS that you want to change to normal, non-shouty text. Or maybe you just realized that the opening paragraph in your manifesto really should go for the caps-lock look. You don’t want to spend all your time re-tying this text, potentially introducing new errors while you do it.

Whenever you need to change the case of some text, Ctrl-F3 is your best friend. It cycles through UPPER CASE, Title Caps, and lower case every time you press it.

If you haven’t selected any text, it changes the case of the word your cursor is currently on. If you select a block of text, then the whole block changes at once. (Oddly enough, if you select whole paragraphs, for some reason it works slightly differently – Word puts only the first word of the paragraph in title case, although it works correctly for upper and lower case.)

Instant Heading Styles

We’ll talk more another time about why heading styles are so important, but for now, I’ll assume you use heading styles to organize your documents. Out of the box, Word provides an easy and intuitive shortcut to apply them.

Put your cursor in the paragraph you want to create as a heading – you don’t need to select the whole paragraph, just have your cursor in it.

Now hold down the the Ctrl and Alt keys, and press 1, 2, or 3. Heading 1, 2, or 3 style is applied automatically.

The only odd thing is that Word stopped there: I often find myself adding shortcuts for Heading 4 and 5 when I’m working with more complex documents.

Increase or Decrease Heading Level

Put your cursor on a heading, hold down Alt and Shift, and press the right arrow key. Whatever level of heading it was just dropped down a level: if it was a Heading 1 style, it’s now got Heading 2 applied.

The shortcut is slightly annoying when you’re on regular text, though: your body text automatically has a heading applied to it, the same level as the more recent heading in your document.

The real power of this shortcut, though, is when you use it with a block of selected text that has headings embedded in it. Say you’re moving a bunch of text into a different part of the document, and it’s now under a lower heading level. Select the section you’re moving, and use the same shortcut, Alt-Shift-right arrow. All of the headings in the text you’ve selected shift down a level, but the body text isn’t affected. Incredibly useful in the right situation.

One more thing – you might know that bulleted and numbered lists also can have multiple levels. The same keyboard shortcut moves their levels up and down – for example, if you hit Alt-Shift-right arrow on an item in a numbered list, they indent and start a lettered list (a, b, c, etc.). Try it out on one of your documents – you might save yourself a lot of time messing around with Words finicky numbering styles.


Maybe you won’t use all these keyboard shortcuts in a single sitting, but try them out the next time you’re working in a document with complex formatting. You might be surprised at how easily and automatically they become part of your editing process.

There are more hidden gem shortcut keys in Word, too – if you know any, add them in the comments!

Audio: “Tempo Rubato”

My short story “Tempo Rubato” was published in the Dalhousie Review in their Fall, 2016 edition. Guest editor Ronald Huebert was kind enough to include the story in his editor’s notes:

And I must mention the last story in this issue, Matthew Bin’s “Tempo Rubato,” which I read as a deeply sensitive work of mourning performed by a seventeen-year-old boy (Thomas) for the loss of his older brother (Edward) in the early stages of World War I.

The story came to me and tumbled out in a matter of hours in the fall of 2016. I sent it out to fifteen Canadian literary venues on a chilly February morning, and the Dal accepted it. It’s been in the Sample Work section of this site since last year.

However, onward progress! I have been learning a little bit about audiobooks lately, and I decided that I’d try this as my first recorded work. So for better or for worse, here’s the audio recording of “Tempo Rubato”.

(It’s also available as an mp3 here, if you’d prefer to download it and listen to it some other way.)

On Trying and Failing

I saw an interesting graph recently, as part of my work at the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
The data set showed students in grade 11 math courses and their later progress into postsecondary education. It showed the eventual progress to postsecondary education for students who excelled, passed, and failed at all four levels of study (i.e. courses for university, college/university, college, and non-postsecondary bound students).
In all cases, the students were more likely to achieve a higher level of postsecondary study if they failed at a higher level, than if they excelled at a lower level.
For example, if you were taking the university-bound level of math, and failed, you were still more likely to end up in university than someone who excelled at the college/university-bound level of math.
This was true at every level of study.
Doesn’t this fly in the face of everything you’ve told yourself about not being good enough? You’ve probably said to yourself, oh, everyone in that level is probably way ahead of me. I’ll limit myself to the lower level instead.
You need to go for the highest level you could possibly qualify for. You need to fail at the highest possible level you can. You need to try at the highest possible level you can.
I know your chronic impostor syndrome is flaring up as you read this; mine does too. Stop it. Squash it. Throw it away.
Trying and failing at the highest possible level is more valuable than excelling at a lower level.
So go ahead and fail.
Fail spectacularly.
And see where it gets you.

ConFusion 2018 in two weeks!

In two weeks I’ll be appearing at the fabulous ConFusion 2018 in Detroit. I’ve never been before but I am sure it’s fabulous because:

  • My friend Ness has been and vouches for its awesomeness
  • They let me have some panels

I’ll be appearing at the following events from the Literary Track:

10am Saturday: Pacifism in Speculative Fiction
Representations of pacifism in speculative fiction is often unsympathetic and/or unrealistic. It seems that the only way a character can be a pacifist and a hero is if they’re not a pacifist at all. Shepherd Book’s pacifism in Firefly dissolves into kneecapping bad guys as soon as the plot requires it, and Charles Xavier gets called a pacifist when he funds and trains a private army. Who are our favorite real pacifists in speculative fiction, and how can speculative fiction contend with the conflict of being a pacifist in a violent world without running for the easy conclusion that pacifism is naive, selfish, and unsustainable?
11am Sunday: Your Cake Is In Another Castle
Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass sends Alice into a chessboard-world where she’s told that if she crosses the entire board, she’ll be crowned queen. It’s not until she reaches this goal that she learns it’s not what she really needs: the goal of chess isn’t to promote a pawn; it’s to put the king in check. When does moving the goalposts on a character feel like a satisfying next step, and when does it break the compact with the reader?
These are great themes and I’m really looking forward to being part of them. If you’re coming to Detroit too, let me know!

Petition to reduce taxes on books

Back in 1990, I remember visiting a Coles and picking up a postcard about the new GST. The Mulroney government had promised to look into GST exemptions for books, same as the PST exemption in Ontario. But by the time they passed the new tax, this had fallen by the wayside. The book-buying world was paying PST on books.
Even after the HST was implemented in Ontario, books remain exempt from the PST portion. It’s time for the federal tax to be removed as well.
So here’s a petition to parliament to do just that. Books are vital to our culture, our society, the way we think, our very ideas. Let’s remove all the barriers we can between the written word and the minds of our citizens.

Appearing Soon on Erin Radio 91.7!

91.7 Erin Radio LogoI’m very happy that I was contacted by Phil Taylor of Erin Radio for an interview and reading on his show, Open Book with Phil Taylor.

I’ve listened to all the episodes of the show and he’s a great interviewer. He’s had some fabulous local writers on his show as well.

I’m not yet sure when my interview will air, but I will post a link when it’s available. In the meantime, you can listen to previous episodes here. They’re well worth hearing.

CBC Interview: My Appearance on Fresh Air

Well that was certainly something: an interview on CBC Radio. After listening for so many years, I’ve finally been on there to say a few words myself.

I’ve known Ralph Benmergui for a few years, and have been honoured to be a guest at his table on a number of occasions. The conversation with him (and his wife Cortney) is always engaging; Ralph and I differ on many subjects but I always enjoy speaking with him.

Ralph works from time to time as a host on various CBC shows, most notably Fresh Air, the Ontario weekend morning show. So I was thrilled to accept his invitation to appear on the show to discuss my book Brendan’s Way, as well as other topics related to publishing and self-publishing.

Of course, it’s never fun to listen to an interview you’ve done after the fact – about ten times I wanted a do-over to give a more useful, intelligent, or accurate answer to his questions. But the interview itself was nothing but enjoyable: just another pleasant conversation with Ralph.

Many thanks to the CBC and to Ralph Benmergui (and his producer Sandy Mowat) for getting it all together and putting it on the air.

If you missed it, I’m going to post a recording of the interview here (although be warned, there are a couple of blips in the sound). Listen soon in case the CBC lawyers get wind of it and I have to take it down.

Now available all over the place: Brendan’s Way!

Brendan’s Way was recently released all over the damn place! It’s available on Kobo, Amazon, and numerous other online bookstores.

If you’re looking to load this into your ebook reader, phone, tablet, or Internet-enabled teletype, now you can do so!

And of course if you want a real-life copy hewn from actual tree-type paper, your best bet is to buy it from the publisher.

Amazon link

Kobo link

What’s Happening? Some Stuff.

I haven’t been updating much lately. Gotta do something about that, so here we are.

Some stuff of note:

I’ve also started a new trend: publish a book, you get a cake.


You are invited to the Hamilton launch of Brendan’s Way, published by Bundoran Press.

I’ll be hosting a very informal gathering in downtown Hamilton on Saturday, May 27, at 7:00. I’ll be reading from the book and signing copies, and light refreshments will be served. I’d love to have you there to celebrate the launch too!

The Nathaniel Hughson Gallery
27 John St. N.
Hamilton, ON L8R 1H1

If you can’t make it, but would like to get a personalized copy, please contact me any time and I’ll get one in the mail for you.

Hope to see you there!