Friday, July 29, 2011

5 Tips and Tricks for Microsoft Word

Many of us use different programs to write. Although I’ve heard Scrivener is good, I use Microsoft Word and I know many of you also use Word. So I thought I’d write a post with some tips and tricks that might help you with your manuscripts.

Widow/orphan control:
This control is switched on by default. If a paragraph is at the bottom of the page and runs on to the next page, this control will push the lines over to the next page rather than split the paragraph over the pages. This needs to be turned off so that every page has the same number of lines. To switch it off go to Format/Paragraph/click the Line and Page Breaks tab/ uncheck the widow/orphan control box. (if you’ve already started the document, make sure you highlight all--Ctrl A--before you uncheck the box).

Our manuscripts can get long and clunky in terms of manoeuvrability. While editing we may want to jump from chapter 7 to chapter 28. Or we might want to make a note to ourselves which is easy to click to. The best way to do this is use a bookmark. Go to Insert/Bookmark/type in a one word label/ click add. I put in bookmarks for every chapter, labelling them as ch2 and so forth. I also make notes to myself such as fix_dialogue or mark in key points in the book.

Another neat trick is to use font styles. You can set up styles for your headings so when you scroll through your manuscript a floating box will pop up and show not only your page number (if you’ve set it up), but also the chapter you are scrolling through. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does help. Also, if you make any changes to the style, it will automatically change all instances of that style in your document. To make a new style you can go to Format/Styles and Formatting/and click New Style button. The rest is self explanatory.

This is particularly handy to have for critiquing another’s work. You can insert comments into a document and they sit in the right margin, easy to spot. Highlight or click on a section you wish to comment on and go to Insert/Comment/ and start typing your comment.

This is more of a formatting tip than a Word tip, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway: Even though printed novels are centrally justified, your manuscript should be justified to the left. It is far easier for editors and agents to read this way. If you can't find the buttons, you can find it by going to format/paragraph/ and clicking left in the alignment drop down menu.

What other helpful tricks do you know in Word? What’s your program of choice for writing?


  1. I always write with Word, so these were really helpful. Thank you!

  2. Didn't know about the bookmarking. There's also showing formatting symbols. Helps if one tends to do a lot of spaces by accident...

  3. I spend about 8 to 10 hours daily with Word :) it has a lot of nice controls and gadgets and it's a good thing to always have one of the latest editions since they always insert some cool new stuff into it.

    Loved seeing H.SPY up in the pic of your Word :)

  4. The orphan thing drives me nuts. If you copy and paste into your document, you have to set it all over again. I wonder if there's a way to change the default for your installation.

    Using bookmarks and comments is a good idea.

  5. My tip is that you always have to keep an eye on the formatting when you upload anything to Google Documents from Microsoft Word. You have to make sure that the different first page carries on from "this point forward" or else your page numbering will be off.

  6. I always use Word; setting styles is something I usually do, and there's a different font for each novel. I don't like writing with certain fonts. :P

    One thing that might come in handy: click and drag the small black bar just above the upper scroll arrow and the ruler icon--it splits the screen in half so you can view two parts of the same document in a single window.

  7. I'm a Word gal through and through!! Yay for Word!!! These tips are fab - I love the Review function and all its many bits!!!

    Take care

  8. I usually type online in Adobe Buzzword Documents and then save it to my MS Word documents (you can also convert to pdf) so I have it in two places and can access it from any computer. But that orphan thing drives me nuts - I had no idea you could fix it! Thanks!

  9. Thanks for this! I had noticed the widow/orphan function in action, but I didn't know I needed to turn it off. I am preparing my manuscript to send, so this is very timely!

  10. Thanks for this post. I always wondered what my pages were doing (the orphan thing). I'll have to play around with Word more. I'm so technically challenged at times.
    : )

  11. I can see I have a lot to learn about word. I didn't know most of these things. Probably explains some of the weird flukes I've come up with sometimes.

    Tossing It Out

  12. What a great post! I'll definitely be tweeting about this. :) Oh, and my favorite Word tool is the format painter.

  13. Great tips! I use Word too. Instead of Bookmarking, I use the document map to find my way around the document. I make each chapter a header style #1, and then I give each scene a brief synopsis with header style #2. Then I go to the View tab and click Document Map. On the left side of the screen, I now have a nested table of contents for my whole document!

    It's so handy, because I can turn it on and off when I need it, and it helps keep me really organized. It helps when writing the synopsis, too.

  14. Thank you for telling us about the window/orphan control! I wish I had known that years ago. I'll definitely be unchecking that box. Bookmarks are definitely useful. I plan to use it more in my upcoming manuscripts.

  15. Jenna, glad it helped

    Alex, Yes, I do use the show formatting button on occasion too.

    Dezzy, hehe, thought you might notice that. ;)

    Tonja, there is a way... You can set up a new 'default' document. I used to do it a long time ago, but haven't done it in a while so I've forgotten how. Someone else might know how...

    Jeffrey, I don't use Google Documents. Good tip, though.

    Golden, yes! I do that on occasion too. Thanks for the handy tip.

  16. Love it! Great suggestions. I hadn't thought of using the bookmarks like that - I'm off to add them in :)

  17. Old Kitty, yep, the review function is great.

    Erica, oh, handy to have it in two places. I'm forever running around with my USB card swapping my files from my laptop to my main computer and vice versa.

    Charlotte, oh, good luck for your manuscript

    Susanne, I can be tech challenged as well because I don't like change. Good thing is, Word hasn't changed much over the years.

    Lee, hahaha. Gotta love those weird flukes!! I once made my curser disappear in Word. Took ages to get it back. I'd accidentally hit some shortcut key.

  18. Carrie, oh yes, i love the format painter. I used to use it a lot when I was working in graphic design. I didn't mention it here because I wasn't sure how often a writer would use it.

    Shallee, ha, I didn't know about the document map. It sounds like it works like the one in Microsoft Powerpoint. Great tip!

    Cherie, yep, I think the widow/orphan control is one of the most frustrating elements in Word lol.

    Jemi, Hope they help :)

  19. Just a word from the publishing end of this-- typesetters hate the special formatting features that writers put in-- they just have to take it back out! The cleaner and simpler you can keep your ms, the better. Let the typesetter make it look all fancy and polished, that's his job.

  20. Awesome advice... every tool helps.

  21. Excellent tips, Lynda! We'd be lost without Track Changes at my day job as an editor, even if the dotted lines are sometimes difficult to follow back to the correct comment. What I do is adjust the leading to e.g. 36 or 48 points, so the comments sit more closely next to the corresponding text.

    P.S. I’ve left a response to your comment on Bird’s-eye View at

  22. I hate to tell you how many years I went without knowing how to turn off that horrible orphan control thing. I'd end up with pages half blank at the bottom. Wasted a bunch of paper.

    I love that comment function in the newer versions of Word.

    That's some worthwhile advice from Karen G. The tech guy at my first publisher gave me a serious talking to about the value of simplicity. And never, ever using tabs.

  23. KarenG, absolutely! All those little features I mentioned are just for my personal use and none of them are for formatting (except left justification).

    Jeff, thanks

    Michelle, haha yeah. A mouseover the highlight will also pop up the comment (if the highlight doesn't share multiple comments) that way you don't have to trace back the dotted line.

    Anne, haha yeah. In my graphic design years I had to reformat a lot of documents and it was painful taking out all those horrible tabs.

  24. I use Word '07, and I didn't know about the orphan thing, either! Looked it up, and sure enough, there it was, CHECKED. Bleh! Thanks for the tips, Lynda!

  25. Yes I always use Microsoft Word for any writing. Thanks for these helpful tips.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  26. I love Word, though I'm still using Word 2000. I hate the newer versions because so many features seem to have disappeared.

  27. I love your word tips. I use both Scrivener and word. Thanks!

  28. I didn't know that you could Bookmark on Word! Neat tip! Thanks! :D

  29. Great tips! I found that mastering Font Styles was really important when I was formatting my son's e-book.

  30. I'm a Scriviner girl now, but did use Word in the past. It's a nice easy program for writing in :)

    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  31. I love Word, with all the fancy things it's capable of and the fact that so many of my writer friends are users it makes critiquing really easy! Oh yes, I'll be using it for a very long while!

  32. And another tip you told me about--hitting Control/Enter at the end of a chapter to keep the new chapter page always at the top of a page! I love that one.

    Hehe, amusing how you spelled manoeuvrability! ;o) [We spell it maneuverability here in the States.]

  33. I am "to be" challenged. Another writer mentioned the other day that she uses AutoCorrect in Word to put all the "to Be" verbs and "that" in all caps as she types. Then, she knows to go back and check. I haven't experimented with this yet, but plan to utilize it. Thanks for the ones you provided. I forget about some of the fun things one can do with Word.

  34. Thanks for all the info. Now that I have Word going it'll come in handy. :)

  35. I use multiple versions of MS word for both work and play, and I found your post very informative, thanks:)

  36. I love tips and tricks! I don't use Word until I have to (like whenever I have to send my file to anyone else), because I love love LOVE WordPerfect. It's too bad the rest of the world doesn't...

  37. Move the top arrow in 5 for an auto indent with each new paragraph. Find/replace is often a godsend. So is 'save as' when you have to do some freaky formatting for somebody.

  38. Thanks for a lovely post, Lynda!

    And congratulations you just won the Lynne Marshall giveaway at my blog!

    Please check the comments. And Lynda, for the first time I'm a guest here:

    It's been easy asking questions and being a host but being at the other end...

  39. Lol, just saw the typo, it should've been

  40. I write with word, but I organise my work with Ywriter (google it, it's free)

  41. Alyssia, hehe a pain right?

    Duncan, hope they helped

    Ellie, I'm using an older version as well.

    Sam, yes, it's handy

    Susan, they save a lot of time in the long run.

    Charmaine, yup, I like nice and easy ;)

  42. Jen, yes exactly! Same.

    Carol, oh yes! I do it automatically that I forgot to mention that. (lol, gotta love the difference between British/Aussie and American spelling).

    Stacy, haha clever tip. I like it.

    Laila, Doralynn, Mark, Ibdiamond, thanks

    Peggy, I didn't realise WordPerfect was still around.

    M Pax, hehe yep, I use 'save as' a lot when I'm revising. Makes it easier to use the delete button. ;)

    Nas, oh wow, thanks so much. I popped over to your interview too and left a comment. It was great.

    Al, oh, I'm not familiar with Ywriter. I'll have to check it out.

  43. I like to use the "Track Changes" feature while self-editing. I can keep track of things I add in or take out, all the while getting a view of the final mark-up. This helps me a lot. Does anyone else use this feature?

    I discovered the widow/orphan feature after a bought of frustration. Great Post Lynda!

  44. Great tips, thank you for sharing. Http://

  45. I still use Word, then have friends help with the formatting for submission as an ebook. Formatting is not my long suit. So I get by with a little help from my friends.

  46. I use Scrivener, mostly because I work on a Mac and it was way way way cheaper than getting Office for Mac. I really like it, but if I had a Windows machine I'd opt for Word probably. Well, if it came with it anyway. If I had to pay, I'd pay for Scrivener.

  47. Though I write with word...I didnt know about many of these things. I will be bookmarking this post. Thanks a lot.

  48. How helpful. I like the find and replace feature to deal with spelling errors throughout a manuscript.


  49. Thanks for this. I only knew a few of these.

    I like to maximize the text to 125% when I'm editing. It helps me catch mistakes.

  50. Great tips, Lynda!

    Hope you're having a good weekend. :)

  51. Thank you, Lynda, for these tips. I just UNwidowed my paragraphs and will be attempting to bookmark my chapters. Thanks again for an informative blog post. ~Victoria

  52. Maeve, I use track changes for critiquing mainly.

    S B Niccum, thanks

    Stephen, nothing wrong with a little help from friends.

    Trisha, a mac???? Gasp! Why a mac?? ;) (lol sorry, a bit of mac/PC rivalry from my graphic design days)

  53. Rachna, hope it helps

    Jai, find and replace is wonderful!

    Medeia, that's a great idea. I maximize to 110% because the resolution on my monitor is so high lol.

    Talli, thanks. And yes :)

    Victoria, hope the tips help

  54. I mostly use Scrivener, but there are lots of times I import into word, for critique groups. Thank you for the great tips--I bookmarked this!


  55. Loved your tips...especially the chapter bookmarks. Duh! Why didn't I ever think of this?
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  56. Debbie, I actually expected more people to say they use Scrivener.

    Raquel, it was from sheer frustration that I worked it out ;)

  57. Thanks for your informative blog! I never knew how to fix that "window/orphan control" thingy...
    It was driving me nuts, trying to move all my paragraphs around so the pages looked even.
    Thank-you, thank-you thank-you!!!
    Sharon :)
    (My computer is new, and I just recently moved everything over to Microsoft Word...I still have LOTS to learn!)

  58. Sharon, I'm so glad to hear it helped. It is a frustrating function and it is a tad buried in the controls too so it's almost impossible to find without knowing it's there.

  59. Thanks for the awesome tips! I've attempted to use Scrivener (and it looks damn good) but I think Word will still be the program of choice for me. Although I've heard that Adobe have a program called Story...


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