Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do You Use All the Features in Your Word Processing Program?

Word (as well as most other word processing programs) has many features. Most of us use only a small subset of what’s available. Three of my favorite techniques in Word are using leader tabs, determining readability statistics, and placing a box around text.


In most versions of Word, the Tabs dialog box is accessed through the Format menu.

• Click on the Format pulldown menu > Tabs.
• Type the ruler setting for your left tab (e.g., .5) > click Set.
• Then type the ruler setting for your right tab (e.g., 6.5), click to indicate that it is a Right tab, click on the Dots leader, and click Set.
• Now you’re ready to type your information.
• Let’s say that we’re typing the table of contents for a grant application.
• Press Tab, type Introduction, press the space bar once, press Tab, press the space bar once, type 1. Return.
• We’re on the second line now.
• Press Tab, type Institutional Demographics, press the space bar once, press Tab, press the space bar once, type 3. Return.
• Let’s pretend that’s the end of the Table of Contents.
• Click Format > Tabs > click Clear All to clear out the Tab settings you entered.
• The result should look like this.

Introduction ................................................ 1
Investigator ................................................. 3

I place a space before and after the Tab because I think that’s a cleaner look than just using the Tab. Try it both ways to see which look you prefer.

Using leader tabs is a useful technique for a table of contents, the program at an evening event, or an invitation. For what other uses do you think it would be useful?


You can customize the Spelling and Grammar check in Word. Each version seems to have its own method for accessing Customize Spelling and Grammar…

• In Word 2002 (XP)—for Windows--click on the Spelling and Grammar icon (ABC with a checkmark) > Customize.
• In Word 2003—for Windows--click on the Tools pulldown menu > Options > Spelling & Grammar.
• In Word 2004—for Macs--click on the Word pulldown menu > Preferences > Spelling and Grammar.

Look through the various options you can change. Experiment with some changes, if you would like. One change that I recommend you make is to select the Readability Statistics. With that option selected, you will see a set of measures each time you perform a Spelling and Grammar check. These measures will give you an insight into your writing.

I checked the Readability Statistics on an article I just finished.

• The statistics included the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences.
• The average sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word were also listed.
• What interested me most were…
  • the readability statistics on passive sentences (10%... a style which I am working to improve),
  • the Flesch Reading Ease (41.1… the average is between 6 and 70… the maximum is 100), and
  • the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (11.6).
These statistics help me to analyze my writing style so that I can choose appropriate changes to help improve my writing.


Boxing in text is another technique that I find very useful in Word. The procedure is much the same in most versions of Word.

• First, highlight the text around which you want a box placed.
• Then click on the Format pulldown menu > borders and shading.
• Choose the box which places a border around all sides and click OK.

You’re done. It’s easy and yet it helps to spotlight text within an article or a lesson. It also works well in a header. It looks like this…

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