I have been known to complain about the limitations and daily frustrations created by Microsoft Word. However, now that I am a full-time editor and writer, I have come to realise I take much of Microsoft Word’s functionality for granted. Herewith is my heartfelt apology for ever whingeing about Word. Share on X I’ve worked on some big documents in the past couple of weeks – editing my little heart out. These documents have shown me that not everyone knows about the gems hidden inside Word. These simple tools really do make a document more polished, easier to read and simpler to navigate. And they save you time in the long run if you use them right from the moment you start your new document. So here is my list of great tools to embrace in Word (I use Word 2013) – they really can make your document better!

  • Format painter. Oh how I love you! For someone who wants consistency, this saves heaps of time. Select the para or word that has the right mix of font and spacing, click on format painter and then click on the text you want to apply it to. Done like magic.
  • Styles. I have brought this up before in other blogs including The power of subheadings. Setting styles using the Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 options (they’re already set up for you) is just good practice. It means that if you need to make a style change to all headings, you only have to do it once. It also helps you generate a quick and easy contents page. Remember, you can modify styles or create your own in the styles menu.
  • Contents page. If you have used your set styles consistently, with the click of a couple of buttons (under the References tab), you can generate a snazzy table of contents. You can still edit the format and remove parts of the contents page that aren’t relevant or useful. Just take note to update it when you have finished your document (you can update page numbers or all fields).
  • Thesaurus. Accomplished writer or not, the thesaurus is your friend! You can search for synonyms by right-clicking on your tricky word, but I find the Thesaurus tool (under Review) gives many more useable (and inspiring) options.
  • Find and replace (CTRL+H). This is particularly useful for removing extra spaces after a full stop or making a bulk change to a name or title. Be warned though – you still need to edit because this tool isn’t perfect.
  • Compare. Ever receive someone’s changes but they haven’t tracked? Nightmare! Open Word, click on Compare under the Review tab and you can get Word to show you what has been changed from your original document.
  • Accessibility checker. These days, documents need to be as accessible as possible by using alt-text for images and structured headings to help with navigation. You can check the accessibility of your Word doc by clicking on File | Check for issues | Check accessibility. The errors display at the right of your document. Try to fix the errors, but don’t worry as much about the warnings.

There are so many more intuitive tools in Word, some of which I probably haven’t discovered yet! So make the most of what it has to offer and save time in the long run. Note: I’m making no promises that I’ll stop the complaining!

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