Microsoft

Three helpful Word formatting tips for working smarter

These three formatting skills will improve your productivity and make you more efficient when working with Word documents.

Microsoft Word

Formatting is important, because it improves readability and sometimes emphasizes a document's purpose. That means that we spend a lot of time applying formats. Here are three tips will help you work more efficiently when formatting your Word documents:

  • Learn how to save formatted text as an AutoCorrect entry
  • Change Word's copy defaults to save you time
  • Use Find and Replace to add formatting to previously formatted text

These three tips share one thing: they all use other non-formatting features to format.

There's no downloadable demo file for this article. I've used Word 2013 on a Windows 7 system, but instructions are the same for 2010 and 2007. I've provided instructions for Word 2003 when appropriate.

Save formatted text to AutoCorrect

AutoCorrect's common use is the correction of typos. You can also use it to enter repetitive text. For instance, you might create an entry that enters the book title "Mrs. Clancey, Meet Mrs. Clancey." Anytime you want to enter the book's title in your document, you'd simply type the entry's name or shortcut instead of the actual title.

You're probably familiar with both of these ways to use AutoCorrect. What you might not know is that you can format the text too! Let's work through a simple example:

  1. Enter the text Mrs. Clancey, meet Mrs. Clancey.
  2. Select and apply the Italics format.
  3. Select the formatted text and click the File menu. Choose Options, and then click Proofing in the Left pane. In Word 2003, choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu.
  4. Click the AutoCorrect Options button in the AutoCorrect Options section. In the Word 2003, click the AutoCorrect tab (if necessary).
  5. Word provides the With text—the formatted text you selected in step 2.
  6. Enter bt in the Replace control (Figure A). The Formatted text option will be selected.
    Figure A
    Figure A
  7. Click Add, and then click OK to return to the document.

To enter the formatted title, simply enter bt and press the spacebar. Word will enter the entire italicized title.

Change Copy default

Copying content from another Word file, a foreign file, or even a web page can be troublesome because, by default, Word retains the source formatting. If you're like me, you probably want the pasted text to adopt the destination document's formatting, most of the time. After pasting the content, you then have to format it, and this route becomes tedious fast.

There are two ways to circumvent the default: use Paste Special, and change the default. I'll show you how to do both.

For a one-time bypass of the default, you can use Word's Paste Special option as follows:

  1. After copying the text to the Clipboard, position the cursor in the destination document.
  2. From the Paste drop-down (in the Clipboard group on the Home tab), choose Keep Text Only (Figure B). In Word 2003, choose Paste Special from the Edit menu. In the resulting dialog, select Unformatted Text, and click OK—or use the Keep Text Only option in the resulting Smart Tag when pasting.
    Figure B
    Figure B

Word will apply the destination document's default style to the pasted text. If you do this often, changing the default will be more efficient. Here's how:

  1. Click the File tab, choose Options, and then choose Advanced in the left pane.
  2. In the Cut, Copy, and Paste section, choose the appropriate option (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  3. Click OK.

In the ribbon versions, these options are flexible enough to allow you to choose a default to fit each the circumstance. In Word 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu, and click the Edit tab. Then, uncheck the Smart Cut And Paste option or click the Settings button to customize the feature, but it won't have the same impact.

Use Find and Replace

You might be wondering what Find and Replace has to do with formatting—Word's Find and Replace feature can find one format and add a second. To see how easy this is, let's work through a simple example that finds italics and adds bold:

  1. Click Replace in the Editing group on the Home tab or press [Ctrl]+[H]. In Word 2003, Replace is on the Editing menu.
  2. Click the Find what control and select More (you must click inside the control).
  3. From the Format drop-down, choose Font (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D
  4. Select Italic in the Font Style list, and click OK. Word will display Font: Italic under the Find what control.
  5. Click the Replace with control and choose Font from the Format list.
  6. Choose Bold in the Font Style list, and click OK. Now, Word displays Font: Bold under the Replace with control (Figure E).
    Figure E
    Figure E
  7. Click Replace All.

The interface text is a bit misleading, because this feature won't replace the italics with bold—rather, it will add bold to the italicized text.

Quick formatting

These three tips aren't rocket science, and they won't amaze and dazzle your friends, but if you share them with your co-workers, they might bring you cookies the next day. More importantly, you'll all be using less effort when formatting your documents.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise, nor do I ask for a fee from readers. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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