Automatic Certificate of Service

As I imagine you know one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck efficiency tools for the modern office (or even the not-so-modern office) is the template. Pretty obvious, right? I’m not the first person to sing the template’s praises, and I’m certainly not the last. But if for some reason, you weren’t privy to this, you need to get on-board. Taking the time to create templates and organize them into an overall scheme, will save you time and money on document creation. It’s that simple. The better the documents and schema, the more time and money saved. But even rudimentary templates in an unorganized scheme make a discernible difference.

They’re easy to implement, easy to understand, and they’re effective (even without using advanced techniques). The mere act of creating templates, and knowing when and how to use them, noticeably increases your efficiency and productivity.

It’s almost not even a technology issue as much as an organizational issue. I mean, you can even use templates with a typewriter. More importantly though, your current word processor already allows you to use them (and if for some reason it doesn’t, you need to switch word processors ‘cause yours is terrible). MS Word, WordPerfect1, Libre Office2, and Google Docs3, all have the functionality to use templates. And you are probably using them to some degree right now.

But as useful as templates are, sometimes they’re not the right tool for the job. Sometimes our repeated language either doesn’t rise to the level of needing a template, or, more commonly, it’s in so many documents that a template isn’t completely useful?

I’m thinking specifically about Certificates of Service here. Obviously, I’ve already included these in most of my pleadings templates. But, all too often, I still spend time hunting for an old pleading just to copy the Certificate of Service into a new document I am working on, or into a new template that I am creating. The same goes for Captions, signature lines, and choice-of-law provisions, to name a few.

In these cases, I like to utilize the Auto-text feature of MS Word (Word Perfect has a comparable feature, as I’m sure the others do too). The Auto-text feature, for lack of a better comparison, it’s a lot like the Copy & Paste Clipboard, except that it’s more permanent and transcends separate documents. Wait, that’s actually a pretty good comparison. Just go ahead and think of it as a permanent clipboard that you can organize and use in any document it’s attached to. (The concept of what documents the Auto-text is attached to will get more explanation at a later time, but for now, this will do).

In the following, I show you how to utilize that “permanent clipboard” to insert a standard Certificate of Service with “Ask” Bookmarks that prompt you for appropriate content as it’s inserted (like the name and address of the opposing party).

This is a relatively simple Certificate, but you’ll get the idea that you can combine the Auto-text with other automation features to create some very robust functionality in your documents.

TL:DR Too Long: Didn’t Read

Before I get started, for those of you who just came here to grab the code and go:

On or about { DATE \@"MMMM d, yyyy" \*MERGEFORMAT }, the undersigned sent a copy of this motion to { ASK DocumentRecipient Recipient \*MERGEFORMAT}{ REF DocumentRecipient } at { REF RecipientAddress }{ASK RecipientAddress "RecipientAddress" \*MERGEFORMAT} via first-class U.S. Mail, postage prepaid.

Basically, type that appropriately into your document, highlight it again, go to “AutoText” and “Save Selection to AutoText Gallery.” It’s that quick, but we’ll go through the steps below.

Auto Text

Auto-text is part of the broader Building Blocks functionality in MS Word. We’ll learn more about other Building Blocks later, since it’s a much broader topic than we can handle right now. But this category includes MailMerge Fields, Bookmarks, Equations, Footers, and other pre-designed blocks of text and formatting that you can use in many documents.

For our purposes, Auto-text is a discrete piece of formatted text that can be retrieved and used over and over. The added beauty of Auto-text is the ability to embed other Building Blocks into this discrete piece of text and formatting, as you will see below.

Formatting Auto Text

The first thing we will need to do when we create this Auto-text is to toggle our field-codes so we can see them. This is because we are using some building blocks inside the Auto-text. It is not a necessary step if you are simply copying and saving text and formatting.

    1. Open a new Word Document
    2. Toggle the Field-Codes:
      • Windows: Win + F9
      • Mac: Option + F9
    3. Insert the text above into your new document
    4. Edit the text for Forms

In order to make this work, you will need to replace the text between the curly braces “{}” with the appropriate Form notation so MS Word will recognize that the information is in a Form Field. In the end, your text will look like the original, except that all of your information between curly braces will be highlighted in gray.

      • Place your cursor in front of the first curly brace “{” and press Ctrl + F9 (This will bring up highlighted curly braces “{}”).

      • Place the information between your initial curly braces into the curly braces that you just created.

      • Delete the original information, curly braces and all. (Your text should look like the following).

      • Do this for the second set of curly braces and repeat this method for all the information in between the original curly braces, until the document matches the original again.

Save Your Auto Text

    1. Select or Highlight your properly formatted text
    2. Choose the ribbon tab “Insert”

    1. Click on “Quick Parts”

    1. Hover your mouse over the “Auto Text” portion so a new selection opens up

    1. Select “Save Selection to Auto Text Gallery”

This will open the aptly named “Building Blocks Organizer”, where you can (you guessed it) organize your building blocks.

  1. Make your Organization choices
  2. Delete the selection that you pasted into your document, so you can test the Auto Text functionality

Test your functionality

    1. Choose the ribbon tab “Insert”
    2. Click on “Quick Parts”
    3. Hover your mouse over the Auto Text portion
    4. Select the “Certificate of Service” (or whatever you named it) option

    1. Fill in the 2 pop-ups

    1. Toggle your Field Codes Back (as above)

And you should then see something that looks a lot like this:

Note: If you don’t see the values that you inserted into the pop-ups, then you’ll likely need to “Update your Fields.”

Toggle the Field-Codes:
  • Windows: Win + F9
  • Mac: Option + F9


Although we only address simple coding here, the Auto Text functionality is much more powerful than it looks at first glance. It can save text, styles, and functions, and you can embed other building blocks inside of them. You can call them using Macros, and you can run them through VBA or other languages that will interact with MS Word. I encourage you to explore how they can be utilized on their face, and in combination with other building blocks. We will definitely address more advanced issues in further articles, videos, and workshops. Until then, keep automating your office.

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