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Making Word work for you

Making Word work for you

December 26, 2018 By Rhonda Bracey Resources
Rhonda Bracey Headshot

Since 2016, I’ve traveled from Western Australia to the ACES conference to present a practical session on being more efficient with Microsoft Word. I’ll be back to repeat it at ACES 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island, this time with the addition of Word for Mac instructions. For those who can’t attend, here’s a brief overview of my session.

Although most editors work with Word, not all of us have been taught the tricks we need to work with it efficiently. My first piece of advice is to show everything, because you can’t fix what you can’t see. I recommend you turn on all Word’s hidden marks (e.g. formatting marks, table gridlines, bookmarks, field shading, track changes). And use that zoom slider to see fine details as well as ‘helicopter’ views.

Next, set up your Word workspace so your most-used tools are close at hand. Did you know that you can modify what’s on the Quick Access Toolbar and shift it closer to where you’re working? That you can create your own tab on the ribbon with your favorite commands? And that you can back up these settings, share them with others on your team, or copy them to another computer?

Word has a lot of built-in automation, and for ergonomic and sanity reasons you should be making as much use of these features as possible. Some examples of automation include: automatic tables of contents (and lists of figures, tables, etc.), quick parts (including auto text), and — my favorite — autocorrect. I suggest you set up autocorrect entries for your most common editorial comments, thus practicing the consistency you preach to your authors. Your autocorrects are stored in separate files that you can back up and share with others. Also related to automation and efficiency are keyboard shortcuts and macros. There are many keyboard shortcuts that come with Word (there’s even a macro that lists them all), but you can also create your own shortcut for any command that doesn’t already have one, or for the macros you use the most.

It’s worth investing some time learning the nuances of the standard find and replace options, but for the best bang for your buck, learn how to use wildcards in your find/replace queries. A great wildcard find/replace can save you many hours of tedious work. (My blog has many examples, with instructions on how the wildcards work.)

Finally, Word doesn’t do everything. But there are add-in tools (such as PerfectIt) that can really expand Word’s capabilities — their small cost is more than recouped in the hundreds of hours you’ll save over your editing lifetime doing tedious, repetitive work.

If you’re coming to my session at ACES 2019 (Save time and your sanity: Increase your efficiency with Microsoft Word), you’ll get details on how to do all this, plus a printed handout of the main file paths, settings, etc. to take home and work with straight away. And feel free to catch up with me — I’ll likely be the only one with an Aussie accent, and with jet lag that will beat anything you have!


Rhonda is a freelance technical editor based in regional Western Australia. She has worked for companies of all sizes, and in the past decade she’s edited more than 2,500 complex Word documents for a health, environment, and safety team on a major liquefied natural gas project for a global company.

She regularly speaks at conferences in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S., and has written thousands of articles (hundreds just on Word) for her blog, which has been viewed by approximately 13 million visitors.

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

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