Category Archives: Word-Wrangling Wednesdays

A Guide to Word’s Squiggles

Into every Word file, a few squiggles must fall.

tools spelling out the word tool

In the 2019 release that is a snapshot of Word 365, the grammar and spelling tools are grouped together in a feature Microsoft has called the Editor. On screen, Word flags errors by underlining them. The underlining it uses mean the following:

  • red squiggle = misspelled
  • blue dots = formatting error
  • blue double straight = word choice or grammar error

The flagging of homonyms has improved, as you can see in the left-hand figure, but Word still misses a lot of grammar errors and some of the formatting errors — even when it has flagged those exact errors elsewhere. The errors shown in the screen grabs below are particularly bad, but Word even misses errors they used as illustrations in Word’s own help files.

Turning On Grammar & Spelling Display

  • On a Mac, go to Word > Preferences > Spelling & Grammar.
  • Windows users, click Options on the File menu, then select Proofing. In the area headed “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word,” click the Settings… button.
Windows users look in the Proofing area of Options from the File ribbon.

Turning Off Grammar & Spelling Display

You can turn off grammar checking, and you can deselect a lot of the checks, but even if you turn off the display of spelling errors, homonyms will still be flagged. (Right figure, top.)

While many editors turn off the grammar checker because Word’s advice is misguided more often than not, the blue “wrong word” checker cannot be turned off.

To get rid of the flags, select “Check Document” or “Recheck Document” in the spelling & grammar settings after deselecting “Mark grammar errors as you type” and “Check grammar with spelling.”

book cover cropped to banner size
Find out more about making the most of “Editor” (formerly Spellcheck) starting on p. 27 of the book.

cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition

Anonymize Metadata in a Word File

Sometimes editors don’t want their work time-stamped, as MS Word does automatically when tracking changes or comments. Or the editor wants the “user name” removed from the tracked changes because they used someone else’s computer, for example. They don’t want the client thinking they outsourced the work without permission.

There are two ways to change the user name tags on comments and tracked changes. One method is to use the Compare Documents function, which lets you specify a user name for all the changes found between two documents, giving them all identical time stamps. We’ll talk about that more in another post.

Continue reading Anonymize Metadata in a Word File

Set User Info to Brand Your Comments in Word

When you’re working on a file, making edits and leaving comments, Word tags every change with your “name.” But is it really your name? Some computers will tag changes and comments with “Computer User”, and some will say gibberish like “adrn9bz”. Set up the system you’re using with your name, role, or business name to help everyone on the team decipher each person’s contribution and to build name recognition for your work.

Where to Find the Settings

You’ll find the “user name” setting in the preferences for Word 365 (Office 2016 or 2019 too).

  • On a Mac, it’s called User Information and is found in Preferences from the Word menu at the far left.
  • Windows users will find this setting in the Personalize your copy… section of the General “tab” in Options from the File ribbon. (File > Options > General >  Personalize your copy…)

This name will appear on tracked changes and comments in all Office programs, and in the metadata relating to the creator or editor of the file.

Branding Tip

Use your business name or moniker if your name is long, like mine, or to remind the team of your business name every time they see one of your comments. Repetition is key to branding and to marketing.

Some clients will want to see your role as the user name, so the team knows which changes were suggested by Copyeditor and which were by The Big Boss. You can change the user name when working on their files. Just remember that the user name applies to all documents you work on from that point forward, not just their file.

screen capture of name tag on a Comment and a Tracked Change in Word 365

It’s Not Working

There are three reasons that setting the user name goes wrong:

  1. It only works from this point forward. So it won’t change the “Author” tag on any existing changes. This is handy if you want to preserve others’ changes, but annoying if you only remember to change the name in the middle of your work.
  2. The computer’s log in name will be used unless you check the little tick box below the field you entered your name in. You can see the “Always use this name/these values regardless of [how I’m] sign[ed] in to Office” box in the screen grabs above in this post. The wording is slightly different on each operating system just to irk editors.
  3. The file is set to “remove personal info from this file on save.” That’s handy for dropping time stamps, but will completely scupper attempts to keep several reviewers’ input separate or to brand your work with your name. More on that in another post.

cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition

Developmental Editing Tool: Navigation Pane

Some developmental edits require heavy lifting. If you’ve got to move sections of text, whole chapters even, you’ll love the convenience of the Navigation pane. Just click on a heading and you can move that whole section anywhere. Trick is, the document has to use Styles to set headings first.

Continue reading Developmental Editing Tool: Navigation Pane

Add Your Own Custom Shortcuts in Word

A fox dives head first into the snow to catch its prey. (Public domain image from Yellowstone National Park, USA.)
A fox’s shortcut to food involves a head-first dive. Keyboard shortcuts are a tad easier.

Keeping your hands on the keyboard is a prime way to speed up work. The less you are hunting around ribbons and menus for the tool you need, the more efficient (and less frustrated) you’ll be. Learning existing shortcuts for navigating a document, cutting and pasting, etc. is an obvious way to keep your hands away from the mouse. Adding shortcuts for the things you do most is the productivity hack.

You can add a keyboard shortcut for almost any command, without creating a macro. Below you’ll find instructions for Windows users and Mac users. The core of the method is customizing the keyboard, and finding the command you want within the huge list of commands that are available.

Create a Keyboard Shortcut

  1. Open the keyboard dialog:
    • On a Windows computer, right-click on a blank grey area of Word’s ribbon, then select Customize The Ribbon… from the context menu that pops up. Then, click the Customize… button beside Keyboard Shortcuts: at the bottom of the left-hand list.
    • On a Mac, select the Customize Keyboard… option at the bottom of the Tools menu.
  2. In the keyboard dialog box that opens, scroll down the left-hand list of Categories: and click a category to look in. Figure 1 shows the Mac and Figure 2 shows Windows.
  3. Next, scroll until you find the desired command in the right-hand list of commands, then select it.
  4. Click in the Press new keyboard shortcut field, then press the combination of keys you want to assign to this command.*
  5. When you find a suitable key combination, click the Assign button, then OK.

*Note the text beneath the Press new keyboard shortcut field; it shows whether that key combination is already assigned. There are several dozen existing shortcuts and no online list seems to be thorough. You just have to try one. You can overwrite an existing shortcut just by doing the last two steps above. You might decide to “reassign” the shortcut for Close File since you always use Close Window, for example.

Figure 1 Mac Customize Keyboard dialog
Figure 2 Windows Customize Keyboard dialog

List Your Shortcuts

Remembering shortcuts can be challenging. If you go back into that keyboard dialog (Step 1 above), you can always look up a command (Step 2 and 3) and see what shortcut you assigned to it. It will be listed in the Current Shortcut field. Even better, keep a list in your work area. Periodically print out a list:

In any document, click Print to open the Print dialog. Select Word settings, and in the Print What drop-down, select Key assignments (Fig. 3 shows the Mac interface, Fig. 4 shows Windows, though these dialog boxes vary slightly on any computer, depending on your OS and your printer).

print options in Word for Mac, showing how to print the key assignments (keyboard shortcuts)
Figure 3 Mac Print dialog
print options in Word for Windows
Figure 4 Windows Print dialog

This only prints a list of the shortcuts you created, not those built into the system, such as those for Select All or Save.

Structural Editing Using Word’s Outline View

Not only does Outline view in Word let you assess the structure of a document, it lets you move chunks of content with a click.  On the View ribbon, click Outline in the Views group on the far left. Or at the far right of the document frame, click the icon on the bottom that looks like a bullet list (Figure 1). This displays the document as chunks of content, each marked by a square, minus or plus sign as shown in Figure 2. A plus sign means that there is content “within” that level. In the example, the Shortcut heading has no content “within” it but the List heading does.

Continue reading Structural Editing Using Word’s Outline View

Fix the Tiny Type Size in Word’s Comments

[updated for Modern Comments, Nov 2022]

Tired eyes, tiny type? Bump up the font size in the Reviewing pane to read Comments and tracked changes in MS Word with less strain.

The easiest fix is to change the zoom setting in the Reviewing pane. This doesn’t change the actual font size, but it makes it easier to read! Scroll down for video demos using classic Comments in Word 365 for Mac and for Windows. (Instructions on increasing font size in Comment balloons are in this other post, but they don’t work in the 2019 version of Word because Comments are now set to “normal” style, nor does adjusting styles work with Modern Comments.)

Zoom the Reviewing pane to increase the font size in Comments

Continue reading Fix the Tiny Type Size in Word’s Comments

5 Magic Ways to Select Text in MS Word

These fast and accurate ways to select text can revolutionize the way you work. Keyboard shortcuts are especially good when precision is required to cut, copy, or style content, or when a very large chunk is concerned. These shortcuts won’t jump unexpectedly like a mouse can.

Not only do these methods work in Word, they work in most other software including WordPress, Adobe Acrobat, and other content management systems. (Instructions for Windows users appear in brackets if they’re different from the Mac instructions.)

  1. Select the word the cursor is in, then the sentence, paragraph, or the whole document using this toggle repeatedly: fn + F8. To quit this mode, press escape.*
  2. Select an entire sentence with cmd + click anywhere in the sentence. (In Windows: ctrl + click)
  3. Select one word forward or back of the cursor’s position with shift + opt + right/left arrow. (In Windows: shift + ctrl + right/left arrow)
  4. Select one paragraph forward or back with shift + opt + up or down arrow. (In Windows: shift + ctrl + down/up arrow)
  5. Select a word with a double-click and the whole paragraph with three clicks.

*The fn key lets you access the root functions of the F keys that are now usually mapped to shortcuts like screen brightness and volume controls. If your F keys don’t operate computer functions, you may not have to press the fn key.

book cover cropped to banner size
Find out more about Alternatives to Macros, starting on p. 76 of the book.

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cover of Editing in Word 2016 2nd ed