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10 Tips for Writing and Editing in Microsoft Word

Jun 30 2023

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Are you an avid Microsoft Word user? If so, then you probably know your way around the app. But if you’re looking for a few more shortcuts to speed up your work, we have just what you’re looking for!

From learning how to switch columns in Word to creating tables on the spot, these 10 tips and tricks will make using the Microsoft Word desktop app easier.

1. Switch columns in Word

It’s no secret that writing in columns is hard to do. Just switching from one column to the other can be tedious. But with a couple of keys you can navigate through columns quickly.

Press Alt + Page Down on the keyboard if you want to switch from the top of the last paragraph in the current column to the beginning of the first paragraph in the next column. You can use Alt + Page Up keys to go in reverse back to the previous column.

2. Add place holder text

Sometimes you might need some dummy text. Wondering how to use Microsoft Word to add “Lorem Ipsum” place holder text?

In your document, type: =lorem(p,l). You can customize the length of your paragraphs by replacing the "p" with the number of paragraphs and replacing the "l" with the number of sentences. Here’s what it would look like for 4 paragraphs of 6 sentences each:

 Inserting Lorem Ipsum dummy text in an MS Word Document

Or, type a number in the parentheses, and MS Word will create that number of paragraphs. Place the cursor at the end of the equation and press Enter to populate your document.

3. Keep track of your text revisions

If you spend a lot of time making revisions and lose track of them, try this tip out. You can stay on top of your revisions by using Shift + F5 to cycle through the last four cursor locations where you were editing your content.

4. Replace characters and formatting

Did you know that finding and replacing text doesn’t only apply to whole words? Here’s how to use Find and Replace in Word to quickly make bulk changes to the hidden and formatted elements in your document. 

1. Click on Editing > Replace.

2. Click on More in the dialog box.

In either of the Find or Replace boxes, specify characters and formatting by using the Format and Special drop-down menus:

Find and Replace options for formatting and special characters in MS Word

Click on Format to search for and replace formatting in your document – the menu includes margins, font, styles, and line spacing, and dialogs to further tailor what you're looking for or replacing.

You could, for example, search for and replace a green font with a purple font, or even search and remove page breaks.

Click on Special to select and find special characters like an em dash, white space, tabs, and so on. You can also insert commands in the search field to find formatting and characters directly:

  • ^p^p for double spaces
  • ^p for single spaces
  • ^t for tabs
  • ^# for digits
  • ^$ for letters
  • ^w for white spaces 

5. Display invisible marks

Editing documents can become tedious when invisible formatting markers play tricks with your cursor.

The good news is that you can work your way around invisible hard returns, soft returns, and tabs. Press Ctrl + Shift-8 in Windows or Command-8 on a Mac to make invisible markers visible.

6. Use 'Focus' mode to filter out distractions

A MS Word feature you may not be aware of is 'Focus' mode. It’s exactly what it sounds like and helps keep you focused and free from distractions while working.

This feature displays your document in full-screen mode, removing buttons and other app interface elements that distract your eye from the content. To enable this, click on the View tab and then the Focus button.

Accessing Focus mode in MS Word

7. Create a custom template for regular writing projects

If you have writing projects with the same outline, why not create custom Word templates to quickly set yourself up? Follow these steps:

1. Create a new document.

2. Format it with any sections you need, including any text or headings.

3. Go to Save As and change the file type to Word Template (*.dotx).

You can then load it as a template in the future when you create a new document.

8. How to delete pages in MS Word

Delete a page by deleting all text formatting, line breaks, and other content on the page. You can also try reducing the font or header text to get your text off the page so you can delete it.

If the page looks blank, but you still can’t delete it, it could mean that you have an invisible formatting mark on the empty page. Turn on the Show/Hide feature, and once the formatting is located, delete the page in Word like you would any other content.

9. Insert symbols

If you’re writing about companies or brands in a contract, you’ll need to include symbols to denote trademarks, copyrights, or registered statuses. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

  • Copyright symbol: Open bracket, “c”, then close bracket
  • Registered symbol: Open bracket, “r”, then close bracket
  • Trademark symbol: Open bracket, “tm”, then lose bracket

10. Create a table with your keyboard

If your content requires a table, you can quickly put one together by using the Plus (+) and Minus (-) keys.

The Plus sign key defines each column. Enter a plus sign where you want one placed. The columns are defined by the number of Minus signs you type out, so your column sizes will depend on how many minus signs you use. 

Manual keystrokes for setting up a table in MS Word

When you have typed all your minus and plus signs, press Enter to create the table. To add more rows, use the Tab key when you’re in the last column. 

Rendering a manually created table in MS Word

Bookmark this page - here’s a quick overview of the shortcuts:  

Action

Shortcut

Switch columns

  • Alt + Page Down: Go to next column
  • Alt + Page Up: Go to previous column

*Must be at bottom or top of paragraphs of current or next columns accordingly

Insert placeholder text

=lorem(p,l)

Where p= number of paragraphs and l= number of lines

Cycle through last four cursor locations

Shift + F5 

Find formatting and characters directly via Find & Replace

  • ^p^p for double space
  • ^p for single spaces
  • ^t for tabs
  • ^# for digits
  • ^$ for letters
  • ^w for white spaces

Display invisible marks

  • Ctrl + Shift-8 in Windows
  • Command-8 on a Mac

Access Focus mode

View > Focus button

Create a Template

Save As > Change file type to Word Template (*.dotx)

Delete Pages 

  • Delete all formatting, text, characters, line breaks
  • Reduce font sizes or header text
  • Use Show/Hide to display and then delete hidden marks

Inserting Symbols

Copyright symbol: Open bracket, “c”, then close bracket

Registered symbol: Open bracket, “r”, then close bracket

Trademark symbol: Open bracket, “tm”, then lose bracket

Creating a table manually

  • Plus (+) = Create column
  • Minus (-) = Create size of column

Edit and revise your MS Word docs with Xodo 

If you're looking for an online alternative to Microsoft Word to update and edit your Word documents, simply use our free online DOCX editor tool. And, you can start using the tips above to quickly revise and work around your text!

Xodo is our online suite of PDF tools that make it easy to work, view, and access your documents with over 30+ online tools. Start editing your documents like an expert!

Explore All Xodo Tools

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Reena Cruz

PDF Productivity Expert

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