Microsoft Word is one of, if not the, most popular and widely used word processing software around. The program is very user friendly and creates awesome products that range from academic papers to business letters and reports and even blog posts. A person with no formal training can usually figure out how to use the program with few problems; however, they will probably only use a small portion of the features Word offers. What a shame…
Keep reading and I will give you my top 5 quick and easy hacks that make Microsoft Word work for you. I have Office 2010 on my computers so I will be giving you hacks for this version. The older version has many of the same functions, but they are either in a different place, or they have a different name.
So here we go, my top 5 hacks:
1. Set yourself up for success when you set up the Word preferences.
Click on “File” in the top left corner of your screen. Scroll to the very bottom and hit “more” then “options.” Next, click on “proofing.”
Once inside of “proofing,” you will be able to set up several writing and editing preferences. I am a professional editor, and we have extremely strict rules on how we handle certain grammar, punctuation, and formatting situations. For example, we use the Oxford Comma and use one space between sentences.
Simply scroll through the list and check (or remove checkmarks) on the areas you want to turn on or off.
If you scroll near the bottom of “proofing,” you will be able to click and open an area where you can select whether you want Word to look at only grammar, or grammar and refinements (pretty much everything related to grammar, punctuation, and stylistic preferences. Simply click on “settings” then scroll down and select or deselect items.
Note: there are two checkboxes at the bottom of this area and if checked, MS Word will NOT perform any checks for you. The program will not identify any issues within your document.
2. Make the software do the heavy lifting via “editor”.
You just set up your preferences in step one. Now you can do a document review by simply clicking on “Review” on the toolbar on the top of your document.
Go to the far-right side of the top of your document to find “editor.” When you click on it, you will get a pop up on the right side of your screen. This will contain a list of errors and suggestions.
Click on each category to see what MS Word has identified as needing corrections, or things they recommend for refining your document. You can either accept or reject each of these items.
MS Word also identifies errors within the text. If you see a red squiggly line, then you have a misspelled word. If you see a blue squiggly line, MS Word believes you have a formatting error.
CAUTION, Word is a great tool; however, it is just that, a tool. It will tell you if the word is spelled correctly but will not always tell you that you selected an incorrect spelling of that word. For example, it will tell you that “to” is spelled correctly, but it may or may not pick up that you meant to type two. Additionally, it may say that something is incorrect when it is really what you want. I run across this quite a bit in the type of writing my organization does. We have some unique words that are not found outside of our “world,” we also use some common words in a different way than in standard English. Word normally marks those words as errors.
Bottom line… use the tool but also go line by line and verify that what Word recommends is correct and read the document to ensure Word hasn’t missed anything. From my experience, Word is pretty accurate and running these tools can save you an incredible amount of time.
3. Use the formatting paintbrush to copy and apply styles to other areas of your document.
The paintbrush is located on the top left side of your document. To use the paintbrush, highlight the text that has the formatting you want to apply to another sentence or paragraph. Next, click on the paintbrush then “paint across the text you want to reformat.” Voila! You now have reformatted text without must mess with the styles.
4. Create an automatic table of contents to ensure that your page numbers and sections are updated as needed.
Go to “References,” which is about midway on the top of the document.
You will see the table of contents on the far-right side. Click on it and you will get a drop-down menu with several styles of the table of contents to choose from. Select the page you want to import it and the type of table of contents that best works for your document.
The table of contents is set up with information that comes from the styles you apply to the document. The nice thing about this is when text is added or deleted, the document gets auto-updated. No more having to change the table of contents and page numbers every time you have rewritten.
5. Identify formatting errors by turning on the paragraph symbol. This symbol is at the top and in the middle of the document. It looks like a backward “P.”
When you turn this on, you will see all the formatting. This is a quick and easy way to see if you have too many spaces between letters or words and tells you where you have the line and page breaks.
Microsoft Word has so many other cool advanced features that you can use. Why spend hours chasing your tail, trying to proofread, or worse sending out documents that are riddled with errors when you can have MS Word identify most of them for you?
Follow my blog for follow-on posts with more MS Word tips and tricks. Please comment below if you found this post to be helpful and share it with anyone who may benefit from it.
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This is a guest post from Diana Keeler, if you would like to be considered for a guest post please contact me.