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Editing tips for Microsoft Word

Updated: May 5, 2023

As a writer and editor, I have a few tips and tricks that can instantly tidy up a piece of work and help it get ready for the editing process. So today I thought I'd share some of these features with you.


You can thank me later ;)


Track Changes


This isn't exactly an 'editing tip' but I thought I'd mention it as it's a common tool that a lot of editors use. Track changes allow you to make changes to a document that can be recorded and then accepted or rejected. This gives editors a simple and easy way to suggest/ make changes to a writer's work and allow the writer to agree or disagree with it. This is such a useful tool that opens up a line of communication and provides a more efficient way to edit for both the author and editor. Track changes is a useful tool in any type of 'editing' ranging from academic to fiction.


Find


The find feature on Microsoft Word is great for searching the document. One big thing that 'Find' helps me with when editing is checking on inconsistencies especially hyphenated words, alternate spellings and ensuring character names are spelt the same throughout.


It can also be useful if you're looking for a specific line or part of the book. It's a lot easier to just search for it, especially if you're working with a very large manuscript.


Replace


The replace tool allows you to find a specific word and replace it with something else. You may want to use this if you have a common misspelling, or perhaps you want to change a character name to something else. This is a quick and efficient way and beats the alternative of sifting through your document and potential missing something.


When I first receive a document, I will use the replace tool to get rid of any common mistakes such as double spaces or if I notice any common misspellings. I will also use this tool at the beginning to apply any style choices such as single quotation marks etc...


It's important to remember that find and replace may not work all the time. For example, if you change a character's name, but there are points that you have spelt the name wrong, it won't change it. So consider any misspellings when it comes to find and replace.


Spell Checker


As much as I rant about how you can't fully rely on spell checker, it's a very useful tool to use when you first start editing. Although it may not catch everything (if a spelling is wrong but spelt correctly for example), using it at the beginning of an edit will reduce the amount of errors in the work before you start working. It's definelty a tool you should use to your advantage. Just make sure your Spell Checker is set to the right language, a lot of the time its default setting is English American.


It's also important to note that the grammar suggestions (the blue line) are just that, suggestions. A lot of the time they will offer suggestions for different styles of editing, therefore listening to every suggestion will result in your editing style being inconsistent.


Speech


The speech tool is a great way to view your work from a different perspective. Sometimes when you have been staring at your work for a long time, finding errors can become more difficult. Hearing it out loud can help to flag up any errors you might have missed. It's also a great way to gain more of a reader's perspective. This is not something I tend to do as an editor, however it has been very helpful in my writing process.


Font and size


When editing your own work or someone else's, changing the font and size of the writing is a good way to make editing a little easier. Increasing the size between the lines can also help when it comes to editing. Personally, I find it much easier to edit with bigger, more clearer fonts and to increase the line spacing. There's just less on the page, more space between the words and it's less overwhelming when you look at the page.


Styles


Applying styles to a piece of work will allow you to format and typeset your work much quicker and easier. Every letter in your document will belong to a 'style' and its default style (in most cases) will be the 'normal'. You can add as many styles as you want for different things, but a lot of the time you will have one for a title, one for subheadings, chapter numbers, chapter titles etc, it allows you to make changes to these styles without having to go through the whole piece individually. This allows you to more efficiently format your work and if you're publishing electronically, it will be able to recognise the styles in your work and if necessary use them (for example on a contents page).


And finally,


Select All


This might seem like an obvious one, but to level with you, I only discovered this button last month...


As you can imagine, highlighting a WHOLE manuscript can take quite a lot of scrolling, so you can probably see how relieved and annoyed I was when I found this button... It selects everything in the document, which makes either changing font size, colour, font or even copy or deleting instant.

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