4 Ways to Customize Word for Writing and Editing

Customized sneakers

by C.K. MacLeod

You can customize Microsoft Word* so that it’s more efficient for writing, editing, and self-publishing. Here’s how:

1. Turn off AutoFormatting.

Out of the box (or with a fresh download), Word attempts to be helpful. Only it isn’t. Unless you change its native settings, it will format your writing in unintended ways. For example, Word may misinterpret a keystroke and insert a bulleted list or table where you don’t want one, or capitalize a word that’s meant to be lowercase.

Word’s AutoFormatting feature is to blame for these shenanigans.

To turn off AutoFormatting, go to File, Options, Proofing, Autocorrection and uncheck most of the options in the AutoFormat and AutoFormatAsYouType tabs. In the AutoCorrect tab, uncheck the box next to Replace text as you type.

Word autoformat window
Word's AutoFormat window

Tip: It’s best to insert symbols, such as a copyright symbol, into your writing manually. You can do that by going to the Insert tab, selecting Symbol, and choosing the symbol you wish to insert.

2. Turn off grammar check.

If you’re a native speaker of English, your knowledge of grammar will be better than Word’s. Guaranteed. Don’t let Word tell you otherwise.

To turn off grammar check, go to File, Options, Proofing, and uncheck both of these items: Mark grammar errors as you type and Check grammar with spelling.

No more squiggly green lines under sections of your text. You’re welcome.

3. Turn on the Navigation Pane.

Word’s Navigation Pane can can help you to move around sections of your book easily. This is especially helpful during the revision stage of writing (Scrivener users who are familiar with Scrivener’s Binder will attest to the value of this function).

Word's Navigation Pane

Ctrl + F opens the Navigation Pane. It isn’t ready-to-use when you first open it, but if you know how to apply heading styles as you write, you’ll be able to harness the power of the Nav pane. This article offers some how-tos.

4. Install editing add-ins.

You can buy add-ins that are designed to work in Microsoft Word. Some add-ins can automate many editing and document clean-up tasks. These add-ins can help you polish your writing and get your manuscript ready for print and ebook formats:

Clean-Up Tools

These tools allow you to remove tabs, spaces, paragraph returns and styles not in use in your document and more—with a few key strokes.

Self-Editing Tools

There are many ways to customize Word. These four tweaks can turn Word into a writer’s tool.

Note: *I use Word 2010. Instructions for your version of Word might be slightly different.

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