September 4 2009

Make Microsoft Word work for you

by Barbie in Style, Writing

As the word processor of choice, Microsoft Word is used across academic disciplines and industries to develop a range of documentation. If you work in Word regularly, you probably use its Spelling and Grammar tool to correct any errors. Although this tool can catch obvious typos and misspellings, it has its limitations. For instance, Word cannot distinguish between commonly confused words, like “it’s” versus “its” or “their” versus “there.” Moreover, the Spelling and Grammar tool does not catch omissions of letters that create unintended words and, ultimately, alter meaning. So, if you miss a keystroke, your “friend” can become a “fiend,” and Word won’t catch it.

Despite these limitations, Word’s Grammar tool offers some unique features that can be customized based on your style guidelines. Here are some quick tips for taking advantage of these features:

  • On the toolbar, select Tools > Options.
  • Select the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  • Under Grammar, select Grammar & Style as the writing style, and select Settings.

Here, you can adjust the settings based on your needs. You can ask Word to check for the serial comma, you can choose whether you want punctuation inside or outside quotation marks, and you can indicate how many spaces there should be between sentences. Plus, you can select specific grammar rules that you want Word to check. Once you’ve identified your standards, Word’s Grammar tool with indicate deviations from these standards with that all-too-familiar green underline.

Use Word’s features to your advantage, and you can produce a cleaner copy of your document. Even though you can’t rely on Word as your only resource, you can maximize its capabilities with these tips.