MS Word tips that are sure to help you ace your research papers

I don’t know about you, but I often fall behind in getting my work done! When a term paper deadline creeps up on you it’s time to get to business. That’s when knowing computer shortcuts and other work-arounds in MS Word can really help you save time.

What do you really know about your MS Word? (Credit: Create IT)

What do you really know about your MS Word? (Credit: Create IT)

I’m a big believer in letting the software do the heavy lifting. So I’ve put together some handy tips for speeding up my writing in MS Word, and here they are for you, too.

MS Word templates

First of all it’s good to know that MS Word has built-in templates that lay out how the document will appear. A template predefines things like the font, margins and line spacing.

When you choose File and then New, you’ll get a dialog box that lists a bunch of template categories. Click on a category to see examples of templates that you can download and use.

The “Student” category includes templates such as:

  • MLA style research paper
  • Letter requesting recommendation from a professor
  • School notebook/report kit

Once you download the template, you have it there for every paper you write. No need to reinvent the wheel. Use the template.

Along with templates MS Word has built-in styles that can help you make your term paper look polished. You can find these Quick Styles on the Home tab of the Ribbon at the top of the screen.

These Quick Styles include:

  • Heading 1: Calibri font, blue, 14 pt, bold with 24 pt space above
  • Title: Calibri 26 pt with 15 pts of space after
  • Subtitle: Calibri 12 pt, italic, blue, 8 pts space after

Just click anywhere inside a paragraph and then click on the icon for a Quick Style and it will be applied to that whole paragraph. I use these Quick Styles to make sure that all headings, subheadings, titles, etc. have the same look throughout my paper.

By the way, when I’m working I always have the hidden formatting marks turned on so that I can see where the paragraph markers are. The icon that controls formatting characters is in the middle of the Home tab. It looks like a backward “P” (¶) and it’s called the Show/Hide icon. Once it’s turned on you can see each time you hit the Enter key, the space bar and the tab key.

It really helps to see what this all looks like on the screen so check out the YouTube video, “Microsoft Word Tips & Tricks” by Suruchi’s EraofPriers for instructions on these tips and many more.

Shortcut keys

I’m not big on memorizing shortcut key combinations because my little brain can’t hold on to very many of them. But a few have made it into my gray matter because they work in darn near every software I’ve ever used.

Shortcuts to memorize include:

  • Ctrl + C to copy text
  • Ctrl + V to paste the copied text
  • Ctrl + X to cut text
  • Ctrl + Z to undo
  • Ctrl + B to bold

There are loads of key combinations in Word and some are made just for doing things like working with tables. You can check them out at Microsoft’s Support page “Word keyboard shortcuts.”

Learn the territory

There are helpful features all over MS Word. Here are just a few of my favorites.

  • Home tab: The Change Case icon can fix text when you’ve had the Caps Lock on by accident
  • Home tab: way over on the right is the Find/Replace feature to help you make a change throughout your paper from one place
  • Home tab: Format Painter icon to copy a format from one block of text to another
  • Status bar at bottom of screen: has the page number you’re on, the word count and the zoom feature that lets you enlarge or reduce the size of the screen

That’s just the beginning of the cool tips you can do with MS Word. For more help and training check out the Microsoft Word Support site.

What’s your favorite MS Word tip, trick or shortcut? Tell us in the comments.

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