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Six Tips for Faster Text Formatting in Microsoft Word

For nearly 25 years, Microsoft Word® has been the dominant word processing application in marketing and sales. But according to data from Microsoft’s Customer Experience Improvement Program, today’s professionals rarely use Word to its full capacity. In fact, they found that of its over 1,200 functions, just five (paste, save, copy, undo, and bold) account for nearly one-third of all function use.

That’s why in this post, we’re discussing six longstanding—yet often overlooked—ways to quickly format and move text. More efficiency, less late nights. On to the list!

1. Spike Text When it comes to outlining, writing, and revising marketing and sales documents—proposals in particular—there is often a need to relocate and reorder several pieces of text. However, this can be a tedious affair, requiring you to highlight the text, cut the text, scroll, paste the text, and scroll back to repeat the process with the next piece of text.

There is a better way: the Spike. Named after the thin, metal receipt sticks often found in diners and small restaurants, the Spike feature allows you to cut several pieces of text while preserving the order in which they are cut. That way, you only have to scroll and paste once. And even better, Word has built-in shortcut keys to use the Spike.

The How To: Highlight a piece of text you would like to relocate, then press CTRL + F3. Do the same to other pieces of text, in the order you’d like them to appear (i.e., use the Spike on the text you would like to appear first in the new location, then the text you would like to appear second, and so on). Once finished, place your cursor in the desired location and press CTRL + SHIFT + F3 to paste them in order.

2. Move Paragraphs without Cutting and Pasting Suppose you just need to move one paragraph up or down in your document. To do this, most professionals would highlight the paragraph, cut it, scroll to the desired location, and paste. Seems simple. But consider how the time can add up, particularly in long documents and extensive review processes.

Thankfully, Word simplifies the process with a handy one-step way to move paragraphs.

The How To: Place your cursor inside the paragraph you want to move, press SHIFT + ALT, then press the up or down arrow key until the paragraph is in its desired location. Magic.

3. Automate Hyphenation Allowing words to occasionally break across two lines can do wonders for a document’s appearance. For example, it can prevent awkward islands of white space between words of fully justified text, as well as overly large gaps of white space at the end of thin-columned lines of left-justified text. However, manually inserting hyphens can be time consuming, as well as troublesome when last-minute edits are made to a document.

Fortunately, Word has the ability to automatically hyphenate words as needed. You simply need to enable the feature.

The How To: Click the Page Layout tab, then the Hyphenation dropdown. Select Automatic. To set hyphenation parameters, select Hyphenation Options. For instance, we recommend unchecking the box next to Hyphenate words in CAPS to avoid splitting acronyms.

4. Make Global Changes to Similar Formatting Have you ever found yourself working on a long, complex proposal, report, or white paper just hours before a deadline, when suddenly you realize that the formatting of a text element (e.g., heading level, body text, bullet text, or caption) needs to be changed throughout the document? Yikes.

Ideally, your document would be using styles, allowing you to quickly modify the necessary element. But when things aren’t ideal, don’t fret. Even when you’re relying on manual text formatting in a document, Word allows you to highlight and modify all text with similar formatting—in one fell swoop.

The How To: Place your cursor in the text element you would like to modify. Click the Home tab, then the Select dropdown on the far right. Press Select Text with Similar Formatting, which will highlight all instances of that text element in the document. Modify the formatting as needed.

5. Paint Formatting Suppose you need to modify several different text elements so that they mirror another element. Rather than going through the tiresome task of manually formatting each, use the Format Painter. This feature can be a lifesaver when formatting large and varying portions of text, such as unformatted text pasted from another document (e.g., resume, report, or PDF).

The How To: Place your cursor in the text element that is formatted the way you want. Click the Home tab, then Format Painter on the far left. Your cursor will change to a paintbrush icon. Click on the text you want to apply the formatting to. Done.

Note: Much like the Select Text with Similar Formatting feature, the Format Painter is largely unnecessary when using styles, since they allow you to more quickly create a consistently formatted, easily modifiable document. We’ll be discussing tips on creating, using, and modifying styles in an upcoming entry.

6. Use Shortcuts (and Create Your Own) Most of us learned how to format Word text primarily via a mouse and the toolbar/ribbon, and that’s okay. These methods are easy and effective, especially once you’ve customized your Quick Access Toolbar.

However, Word has been designed with more than one way to carry out every command, and often the quickest way is with a shortcut key. Using simple keystrokes, shortcut keys allow you to keep your hands on the keyboard, typically saving you time when executing commands.

The How To: There are many comprehensive lists of Word shortcuts available for download on the Web, including Microsoft’s master shortcut list. For a sampling of the shortcuts we find most useful in marketing and sales documents, please refer to Freestyle’s Common MS Word Shortcut Keys tip sheet.

Want to automate a process, but there isn’t a standard Word shortcut for it? No problem! Word allows you to create macros using the Macros dropdown in the View tab. The process can be a bit confusing, so take a look at the video below before giving it a try.

Shameless Plug Alert: A great way to save time and create clear, persuasive proposals and marketing documents is to hire a professional writer, editor, or trainer. You know, like the ones at Freestyle Editorial Services. Explore our website and contact us today to discuss how we can make your company stand apart from the competition.

One Final Note: We’re always suspicious when articles mention products by name, so let’s be clear: Freestyle Editorial has no relationship with Microsoft, and we’ve certainly had our fair share of frustration with Word’s quirks. The features discussed above are just some of our favorites, plain and simple.

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