Tips For Using Microsoft Word
Michael L. Kent
Excerpt, Public Relations Writing
Chapter 13, p. 1 of 5
Word Processing Software
Microsoft word does nearly everything that a typical public relations
practitioner might need to do to produce professional looking word-processed
documents. Word can create mail merges, automatically generate envelopes, labels,
bulleted and numbered lists, create templates and simple graphics, designate style
sheets, sort lists, and dozens of other basic desktop publishing functions. Microsoft
Excel is a fairly powerful spreadsheet program that can be used to create tables,
graphs, infographics, conduct hundreds of everyday statistical calculations, and many
other functions. I will begin with Word.
Microsoft Word
Word has many useful features. However, before I go into any details, the first
thing you should learn how to do is to customize your toolbar so that it has all of the
commands that you use on a regular basis—or would use if you knew where to find
them. Figure 13.1 has a copy of my own toolbars. I will briefly explain how to
customize the toolbars and then move on to briefly discussing several of the features
found in word that you should know how to use.
If you go to View/Toolbars, you will see a pull down menu with about 16
possible menus to choose from. Most people typically have two or three toolbars open.
If you do not already have “standard” and “formatting” open, do so now. Place your
menus where they serve you best. I prefer mine stacked at the top of the page;
however, you can also place them along the sides, at the bottom, etc. Next, point your
mouse at each of the items in the menus that you do not recognize and pause for a
few seconds. An explanation of what it does will appear. If you do not understand
what the feature does (for example, Figure 13.2, the Format
Painter, here, which most students have never used), then look it
up in your manual or under “help.”
Make note of the toolbar commands that you are sure you
would never use because you will be removing them and
replacing them. For example, I never use “cut,” “copy” or “paste”
from the toolbars, I execute these commands from the keyboard.
Once you have identified what each of the icons in the
stock toolbars do, and which commands you
probably will not use, go to the “View/Toolbars”
menu again, scroll to the bottom and open
“Customize…” (Figure 13.3):
“View/Toolbars/Customize….” Select the
“Commands” tab (Figure 13.4). Once this window
is open, be very careful with your toolbars and
menu bar at the top of the screen. If you wanted to
(do not experiment, trust me), you could remove
the “File” menu simply by dragging it off to the
side or down out of its location. However, what
you do want to do here is to browse the various
Michael L. Kent, Ph.D.
Public Relations Writing
Chapter 13, p. 2 of 5
commands and add in the any that you might find
useful: there are hundreds, dozens of which you
have probably never see or knew existed.
Begin by dragging all of the commands out of
the toolbars that you determined you would not
use. Simply click on them and drag them out of
their location. Once pulled out of the menu, let go
of the mouse button and the item will disappear. To
restore an item, if you make a mistake, drag the
item from the commands window and drop it back
into the toolbar where you want to place it. You can
also rearrange the items on the tool bar to place
them where you prefer by clicking on them (holding
the mouse button down) moving the item to a new
location (or a different toolbar), and releasing the
mouse button.
After you have removed the items that you do not want, I recommend closing
the “Customize” window and restarting Microsoft Word (MSW) to save the changes. As
many of you know, Word can be unstable so as you proceed with the remainder of the
toolbar editing, quit from time to time and restart to prevent losing your changes.
Once you have figured all of this out, open up the “Customization” widow again,
and proceed to go through all of the MSW commands. You can either go menu-bymenu (click “File,” “Edit,” “View,” etc., on the left side) or use “All Commands,” and
them click on each one in the right window. As you select each item, a description will
appear at the bottom of the Customization window telling you what each command
does. If the command sounds useful, simply drag it up into one of the toolbars. Note:
you can “rearrange” the commands after you have used the program for a few days to
maximize individual placement. I have placed the commands that I use regularly in my
menu bars to correspond with my own usage patterns. I have also grouped like items
together to make them easier to locate and use.
Here is a summary of the commands from my own toolbar that I have found
useful, starting at the top row (Figure 13.1): New Blank Document, Open, Save, Print,
Find, Find File, Web Page Preview, Insert a Symbol, List Sort Ascending, List Sort
Descending, Insert Page Number, Insert Number of Pages, Create Envelopes, Create
Labels, Drop Cap, Insert Note, Show/Hide Formatting, Drawing, Line Style, Line
Weight, Change Page Magnification, and Help.
Second row: Style, Normal View, Page Layout, Format Font, Format Paragraph,
Document Layout, Single Space, 1.5 Space, Double Space, Align Left Justified, Align
Center, Align Right Justified, Align Both Margins, Create Columns, Borders and
Shading Menu, Outside Border, Background Color, Highlight Color, Font Color, Fill
Effects, More Colors.
Third row: Font, Font Size, Format Painter, Outline, Shadow, Bold, Italic, Word
Underline, Dotted Underline, Underline, Double Underline, Small Caps, Strikethrough,
Double Strikethrough, Change Case, All Caps, Subscript, Superscript, Bullets,
Numbering, Increase Indent, Decrease Indent.
Michael L. Kent, Ph.D.
Public Relations Writing
Chapter 13, p. 3 of 5
Additional Features of MSW
As mentioned above, MSW has hundreds of commands that most people never
use or do not even know about. Below I list several of the features that I have found to
be the most useful.
• “Preferences/Spelling and Grammar”: Create a custom dictionary and begin adding
technical terms when they are flagged as misspellings. Set your grammar checker
for “punctuation inside of quotes” and “one space after periods.”
• “View/Page Layout” to see the actual page with margins, etc. This is useful for
formatting and is preferable to “normal” view for almost all work.
• “Insert/Picture/From File” allows you to place a graphic into your document. Once
a graphic has been placed, you can double click the graphic to open the “Format
Picture” menu allowing you to scale the picture to fit, adjust text wrapping, etc.
• “Format/Font/Character Spacing” allows you to adjust the spacing between
characters to reduce the spacing or i n cr e a s e spacing (called kerning). Kerning is
very useful when you are one word long on a document and want to run the word
back. Simply reduce the line spacing of the last line (or paragraph) by .1–.3 pts and
no one but a graphic artist or typesetter would notice the difference.
• “Format/Paragraph” allows you to adjust the spacing before and after paragraphs,
set absolute spacing (12.5 pts.) rather than relative spacing (double), create
hanging indents, keep lines together, and designate “Widow/Orphan control.”
• “Format/Document” allows you to adjust the margins, control the placement of
headers and footers, etc.
• “Format/Bullets and Numbering” allows you to designate any of several different
types of bullets, or several types of numbered lists. Using automatic bullets and
numbering is preferable to creating them manually. Be sure not to use hyphens,
periods, o’s, and dashes in place of bullets. Learn to make proper bullets and
numbered lists.
• “Format/Borders and Shading” allows you to place borders around entire pages,
paragraphs or sections, or individual words.
• “Format/Columns” allows you to create a designated number of columns, to place
lines between them, or to create columns of equal or different width.
• “Format/Drop Caps” allows you to create drop or margin caps and to designate
how many lines they will span.
• “Format/Style” allows you to create style sheets (Figure
13.5). The best way to create style sheets is to close all
open documents and then open the “Normal” template
and set all of the defaults that you want (widow/orphan
control, etc.). Designate everything in your style sheets
that you might want as defaults for font, size, style, etc.,
as well as headlines style, header and footer preferences,
etc. There are dozens of style sheets that can be
designated. If these changes are made to the “Normal”
template, then all future documents created will have
those parameters and your style sheets will work
• You can change the size of a font from the keyboard by
highlighting the words, and holding the command key,
and the hitting arrow < > keys to increase or decrease
the font size to the next default size (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14,
16, 18, etc.).
Michael L. Kent, Ph.D.
Public Relations Writing
Chapter 13, p. 4 of 5
You can quickly adjust the amount of indentation in a paragraph by using the
increase or decrease indent keys.
Go into the “Tools/AutoCorrect…/AutoCorrect” menu and make the following
changes: replace “website” with “Web site”; “web site” with “Web site”; webpage
with “Web page”; “world wide web” with “World Wide Web”; “pubic” with “public”;
and any other frequently misspelled words. Add to this list anytime you identify
mistakes that you make or that the auto correct function does not recognize.
Always use “Tools/Hyphenation…/Auto hyphenate” whenever you are justifying
both the left and right margins.
“Tools/Word Count” does what it sound like and also counts letters and lines.
“Tools/Envelopes” provides template for printing envelopes.
“Tools/Labels” provides label templates for all of the hundreds of types of labels.
The templates are based on the numerical codes that come on label packages
(Avery and others).
Entire words can be selected simply by double clicking anywhere in the word.
Entire lines may be selected by triple clicking anywhere in a line of text.
Multiple sections of text from different locations in a
document may be selected all at once by first selecting a
word, paragraph, section, etc. and then holding down the
command key while you make additional selections of text
from different locations in the document. MSW assembles
these selections in the order that you make them so this
feature can be very useful for quickly rearranging
paragraphs or sections of text (Figure 13.6).
Drag and Drop editing is possible (if you have it turned on in the
“Preferences/Edit” menu) when you highlight a series of words or paragraphs and
then release the mouse button. Then, click on the highlighted text again (one time)
and hold it, and move the mouse to where you want to drop the text and let go of
the mouse button. Drag-and-drop editing takes a bit of practice but is worth
learning how to do.
Characters, words, paragraphs, sections, or whatever, may be copied and pasted
somewhere else simply by holding down the command key while moving the
highlighted text. For example, you want to use the same phrase to start several
sentences (alliteration). Just highlight the words in question, press the command
key, and “drag-and-drop” them to the new location. Using the command key copy
feature saves a keystroke. The traditional way: “highlight, copy, paste,” can be
reduced to “highlight” (press command) and “drag and drop.”
“Edit/Find” and “Change” can be used for dozens of purposes if you think through
what you want to do. For example, when you are finished with a document, search
for all extra spaces (literally, search for “space, space” by hitting the space bar
twice, and replace with one space to eliminate all double spaces after periods, etc.
Be sure to run this a few times to be sure that triple or quadruple spaces are
removed (continue “replace all” until you get “zero replacements”). You can also use
“Find/Replace” to edit text downloaded from the Internet, as well dozens of other
uses. Be creative, think through what you want to do first, them do it in several
steps. I often have edited a text file (an e-book, for example, from “Guttenberg
Project”) and stripped out all of the manual line breaks while maintaining the
paragraph breaks to make the text easier to read and quote.1
“Insert/Footnote.” Be aware that MSW will automatically change your footnotes to
a default font that is different than your “normal” font (unless you have designated
Michael L. Kent, Ph.D.
Public Relations Writing
Chapter 13, p. 5 of 5
a style in your style sheets). Be sure that your footnote formatting matches the rest
of the document. The programmers obviously never read a style guide.
The “Format Painter,” the blue paintbrush looking icon on your toolbar is very
useful. With it you can copy the formatting from one place (a heading or bulleted
list) to another place. Simply place your cursor anywhere in the paragraph that you
want to copy the formatting from, and then click on the style painter. A plus sign
will appear next to your cursor and when you highlight a new section of text, word,
paragraph, etc., the style will be copied and applied. If you change your mind, click
the paintbrush again and the plus sign will disappear, or use the “undo”
Here is the procedure: In the find box, search for two paragraph breaks: ¶¶
(toggle the window bigger for “special” commands); in the replace box, replace the two
paragraph breaks with a symbol that is not in the text itself. I usually use a bullet: •.
Select “replace all” and change all of the paragraph breaks to bullets. Next, replace all
of the single paragraph breaks with a space: search for ¶ and replace with a “single
space”—one tap of the space bar. Select “replace all” to eliminate all of the
unnecessary paragraph breaks. You should now have a continuous paragraph of text
that has bullets wherever proper paragraph breaks would be located. Finally, convert
the bullets back to proper paragraph breaks: search for • and replace with ¶. Voila,
you will have eliminated all manual returns at the ends of lines and created proper
paragraph breaks.
Once you get good at using “find/change,” you can use the feature to make a lot
more subtle changes in documents. I have used find/change for textual analysis by
searching for specific words and changing their color, or case, to make the words
easier to locate and to highlight their relations to other words, etc.
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