Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Useful Things in Microsoft Word - the Writer's Guide #TipsTuesdays 29

So I love Microsoft Word for writing, so much so that I find I cannot use writing software that has it's own editing system. Can't get along with Sciverner to save my life. That's why I use yWriter, because it lets me use Word as my editor of choice. So for Tips Tuesdays 29 I have decided to explain why I love it so much.

Useful Things in Microsoft Word - the Writer's Guide

Spell Checker

Sometimes I am a terrible speller - my brain just seems to lose words. The spell checker is amazing for helping me to find what I'm actually after. In the olden days I would have used a dictionary, but now I have Word :).

I'm also terrible with typos and a lot of them Word sorts without me even having to worry about them. This saves me a lot of time.

It doesn't replace good editing, but it is so helpful on the first drafts.

Find and Replace

I cannot be the first writer who has decided on a name of a person or a place or an object and then decided their choice was lame? We all do it, right? And that's not the only thing I find I need to do either.

Word's search functionality is a magnificent tool and it allows wild card characters. It is far more powerful than many people imagine. I could do a whole post about it, in fact I might in the future, but for now the Office Support site has a great article:

Replace Text Using Wildcards


Now I wrote a whole post about these two weeks ago for Tips Tuesday 27 and I really couldn't live without them. They save a ridiculous amount of time and make it much easier to format your document.

Save to PDF

Once upon a time you had to install Adobe PDF printer driver to get your document into PDF format. Now, however, there is a very simple "Save as PDF" option. You can reach it in one of two ways:

  1. Click the Office Button (round button in the top left hand corner)
  2. Hover over "Save As"
  3. Select "PDF or XPS" from the fly-out menu
  4. Type in your file name and hit "Save"
  1. Click the Office Button (round button in the top left hand corner)
  2. Click "Save As"
  3. Choose "PDF (*.pdf)" from the "Save as type" dropdown.
  4. Choose your file name and hit "Save"

Page Layout

I find that for most writing the default page layout is perfect, but the options are most useful for two things:

Setting up the document when an agent/publisher has very specific requirements

Sometimes when submitting a document for consideration to an agent or a publisher, they have very exacting requirements on how it should be laid out. Theses days it seems to be less and less common, but a few years ago when I started some had very specific wants when it came to documents. Then again some of them only accepted in print, not via email. Thank heavens that has changed.

The page layout options are well set out and make this easy.

Changing how the page looks when self-editing

When editing before sending it to anyone else, a good technique for helping to see our own mistakes is to change how the page looks. This then requires the brain to reassess what it is reading so our eyes are less likely to skip over something. I tend to use the following settings:
  • Orientation to landscape
  • Columns to 2


On the ribbon across the top of Word there is the Review tab.

On this tab there is the comments section. This makes communicating with my editor so much easier. To add a new comment you simply do the following:

  1. Highlight the text you wish to talk about or place your cursor at the point in the text you wish the comment to be.
  2. Click the "New Comment" menu option on the ribbon.
  3. Type the comment you wish to make into the comment section that will appear in the side margin.

Different peoples comments should appear in different colours.

When you receive a document with comments in it, you do not have to scroll through to find them. You can simply click the "Previous" and "Next" buttons in the comments section of the Review tab on the ribbon. This will hop between the various comments.

Track Changes

This option is also on the Review tab of the ribbon and is a god-send when you are trying to keep track of what has been changed in a document.

To turn on Track Changes:
  1. Go to the Review Tab
  2. Click the Track Changes option so it looks like this
Once "Track Changes" is on all changes in the document will be highlighted like so:

Like with comments it is also possible to click through all the changes without having to scour the document by using the "Previous" and "Next" options in the "Changes" section of the Review tab.
The "Accept" and "Reject" options then allow changes to be made permanent in the document or for a change to be removed and that part of the document returned to it's original state.


Yet another option on the Review tab - as you can tell I find this tab very useful. Now sometimes I do silly things like forget to turn on "Track Changes" or forget which version of my document is really the one I want.

Compare allows me to take two documents and see what has changed between them.
  1. Click the "Compare" menu option.
  2. Choose the two documents you wish to compare in the dialogue which comes up
  3. Click OK
Then up will come a new document that shows you all the changes that have been made from one document to the other. The number of times this has allowed me to tell why I have created different versions of a document is huge. You can avoid the need for this if you give your documents sensible names :).


There are some things I find myself doing over and over again in documents. This is where Macros come in really handy.

For example - yWriter outputs RTF files and when I want to reformat them into proper documents for conversion to eBooks there are repetitive tasks that I use a Macros for. One such thing is formatting all the chapter headings.
  1. Search for the word Chapter
  2. Replace the existing "Chapter" with one that is formatted as a Chapter Heading.
Now Macros are advanced and hence they are in the "Developer" tab of the ribbon. This is disabled by default when Word is installed, so if you want to use it you have to turn it on.
  1. Click the Office button in the top left.
  2. Choose "Word Options" from the bottom of the menu that appears.
  3. Check the box next to "Show Developer tab in the Ribbon"
  4. Click OK
Now you can program Macros by hand, but that's far too advanced for this post. The easiest way to create your Macro is to record it.
  1. Click "Record Macro" in the macro section of the Developers Tab
  2. Choose a name for your Macro that you will remember and type it in the box that comes up.
  3. Click OK (you will see the Macro section will now say "Stop Recording" and "Pause Recording")
  4. Perform whichever repetitive action you wish the Macro to do.
  5. Click Stop Recording
Now if you wish to Run your Macro you:
  1. Click the Macros button
  2. Choose the one you want from the list
  3. Click Run.

Ctrl-Z (Undo)

If you ever do something silly in Word or the cat walks all over the keyboard and puts complete rubbish in the text or reformats everything to Chinese, Ctrl-Z is the best thing in the world. I use it all the time.

There is also the Undo arrow in the top menu bar that does the same thing.


I cannot begin to tell you how many times AutoRecover has saved my sanity.

We all know that computers are sometimes unstable, or occasionally we have power cuts. Word has a very lovely option that auto saves your document for you should Word suddenly crash for whatever reason. Then when you open Word again it offers you the option of opening the recovered document.

If you've been writing for hours and haven't hit "Save" manually and Word suddenly dies - this option is a god send. It is automatically set to 10mins - I have mine set to 5 to be on the safe side,

To change it do the following:
  1. Click the Office button in the top left.
  2. Choose "Word Options" from the bottom of the menu.
  3. Choose "Save" from the left side menu.
  4. Change the number in the "Save AutoRecover information every ... minutes" entry.
It is possible to turn this option off, but the only reason I have ever done it was when I was using a very old, very slow machine that stopped for a minute every time it tried to save :).

And there you have it - my favourite things about Microsoft Word that I use all the time. These are the reasons I cannot live without it. There are more things I use regularly as well, but some of them are too complex to go into in a single post.

I know sometimes Microsoft can be a royal pain in the bottom, but I think Word is one of the best things they have ever come up with. That and Excel - but that's a whole other post :).

Do you use Word? What parts of it can't you live without? If not, what do you prefer to use?


  1. Hi Tasha - a really useful post ... I tend to just type - but I should use the 'tools' available more often ... thanks for these useful tips and reminders for us to use them when appropriate .. cheers Hilary

    1. You're most welcome :) I had such a positive response to my styles post that I thought I might do one on all the tools in Word.

  2. I use Word for anything beyond a first draft of a doc, due to things like track changes for editing and the ease of formatting.

  3. Good tips! I recently got a new laptop and rather then spend money on MS Office, I went with the free open source Open Office program. I'm going to have to check and see how many of these features they also have on Open Office.

    1. I have had a nose at Open Office, but never used it. I know it emulates a lot of what Word can do, so hopefully it has most of them.

  4. Word does have some great features, but I have to admit, it's so top-heavy it drives me nuts. I tried a few free and test programs, and ended up with Scrivener, though the Windows version still doesn't have the editing capabilities that Word does. But for everything else, I love Scrivener more. Especially for the price.

    1. I tried Scrivener and it drove me bananas - I came to the conclusion my brain does not work the way it wants it to work :). I know a lot of people love it, though. I'm just glad there are things for all of us :) I use yWriter to organise and Word to so the actual editing.

  5. First I learned Word Perfect and then Word. I wrote a lot when I was still working and the tools were great. Now, just writing a blog post, I only worry about basic spelling and grammar and just use what Blogger offers.

    1. That seems most sensible - a word processor is a bit overkill when browsers provide WYSIWYG editors. :)

  6. I use most of these Word features, but there are some I missed so saving this valuable post. Current WIP is being edited in Word as finding problems with my 'novel software' = Word rules.

    1. Hope you find them as useful as I do :)
      Which novel software do you use?

    2. I've mostly used WriteItNow 4 but also tried Scrivener a couple of times, but latter doesn't work for me. In the end, re-draft in Word every time.

    3. I've never tried WriteItNow - as I mentioned above I use yWriter because it allows me to use Word as my editor. Only problem with it is the storyboard feature seems to screw up on my machine.

    4. The storyboard feature in WriteItNow is why I stick with it - works better than Scrivener...well the way I use it. Use write it now for first draft and can generate RTF copy. Then I edit subsequent drafts in Word.


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