How to Survive Microsoft Word

MS Word is a powerful and useful word processing program. More importantly, it's a standard. A lot of markets--magazines, book publishers, scientific journals--require you to submit manuscripts in Word format. So we're stuck with it.

Word's most annoying and frustrating drawback is that it does all kinds of things for you--whether you want it to or not. Automatically corrects your spelling. Auto indents, and then won't let you get back to the left-hand margin whatever you do. Substitutes cute punctuation like "curly quotes" for the punctuation you actually used. Note: Some editors require your manuscript to use "straight quotes" only. Thanks, Microsoft.

To make Word work sanely, you have to learn how the damn thing works inside and out. Forunately, you can eliminate about 90% of the robot editing with a few simple steps. Here they are.

1. Click on the Tools menu. Click on Autocorrect. You'll get a multiple-tab interface. On the "Autocorrect" tab, uncheck all five check boxes.

On the "Autoformat As You Type" tab, uncheck every check box. All of them, every bloody one. You can turn some back on later if you really want them.

Do the same thing for the identical check boxes on the "Autoformat" tab. Click okay.

Why Microsoft has all this crap twice, forcing you to do twice the work to get rid of it, cannot be understood by a normal, sane person.

2. Every Word user has had the lovely sensation of accidentally hitting the wrong key and seeing their entire document suddenly screwed up beyond belief. When this happens, hold down the [Ctrl] button at the far lower left of your keyboard, then press Z. This is called "entering a control-Z." The control-Z character is written ^Z. Entering a ^Z in Word is the "undo" command. It undoes whatever your last action was. More importantly, it can do so for several actions back if you keep entering ^Zs one after another. Remember this one.

3. To switch off Microsoft's incredibly user-hostile irreversible autoindenting, click on the Format menu. Click "Style..."

The "Style" dialog box will appear. In the big "Style" list box at the left, find the entry for "Normal." If it isn't selected already, select it by clicking on it.

In the group of three side-by-side buttons near the bottom of the dialog, click "Modify..." This will bring up the "Modify Style" dialog box over the first one.

In the side-by-side group of four buttons at the bottom of the dialog, click the Format button. In the drop-down list that appears, click "Paragraph." The Paragraph dialog box will come up.

Use the drop-down boxes and text boxes to enter the following values:

Indentation, Left:0"
Indentation, Right:0"
Spacing, Before:0 pt
Spacing, After:0 pt
Line spacing:single (or whatever you want)

*"(none)" is an actual choice in the list, make sure it's selected!

Click OK. You should be back at the Modify Style dialog. Check the "Add To Template" check box near the lower left.

Click OK. You should be back at the Style dialog. Click Apply. That should do it.

4. Finally, here are some keyboard shortcuts, if you're having trouble remember which obscure icon stands for what:

Copying, cutting and pasting:

^A"All"Select/highlight everything in the document.
^C"Copy"Copy whatever is selected.
^V"Insert"*Insert whatever is in the copy buffer** into wherever your text cursor is.
^X"Cut"Copy whatever is selected into the copy buffer and delete it from its present location; i.e. cut it out of where it is now.

* From the printer's insert mark, which looks like "v".
**Yeah, yeah, the "Clipboard." I know.


^B"Bold"Make whatever follows in bold font. If already in bold font, make whatever follows regular font.
^I"Italics"Make whatever follows in italic font. If already in italics, make whatever follows not so.
^U"Underline"Make whatever follows underlined. Or if already is, make whatever follows not so.


^Z"Undo"Remove any effects of the previous command.

Page created:12/15/2009
Last modified:  02/13/2011