Word For Dummies: Easy Editing Tips For Writers And Students

Quick and Easy Editing Tips For Writers And Students

How many times have you realised that you have made a spelling mistake in your manuscript, perhaps about a hundred times, spread over multiple pages?

Writing is fun! But every writer knows the agony of editing, especially when you are one of those who just know enough about MS Word to write and save your manuscripts and documents. I am not too tech-savvy either, just a self-taught writer from a generation who had never seen a computer for half their life. So, for everyone who is a computer dummy like me, here are some easy writing and editing tips that I often use to save time and headaches.

Using Autocorrect

Autocorrect is a very useful tool when you are typing fast and missing out letters or just get a simple spelling wrong. However, we can also tweak autocorrect to help us even more than that.

Consider this: You are an American and are now working in England. You have set the default language for your document as English UK. You have researched the differences in American and British English and want to use the English spellings now but old habits die hard. You keep on writing the American spelling for everything and your writing is littered with red marks. Of course, you can just choose the correct suggested spelling every time, but there is a better way. Here’s how.

Right-click on the red-marked spelling and instead of choosing the correct spelling, go to the autocorrect option and choose the correct spelling there. Next time, when you write your spelling, it will be autocorrected instead of being underlined in red. Remember that you have to do it once for every variation of the word, for example, if you have chosen to autocorrect neighbor with neighbour, you have to do it separately for neighbors-neighbours, neighbor’s-neighbour’s etc. Watch this animation for easy reference.

I always end up writing “teh” instead of “the” because my right hand works faster than my left. I want my computer to know this and adjust to my idiosyncrasies. Adding to autocorrect is a great option.

animation showing how to add new words to autocorrect
How to add words to Autocorrect


Find And Replace

Find and replace can be very useful editing tools for a writer.

Using Find

We all have our favourite words and tend to write a lot of them. However, that often makes for boring reading. If you tend to write “actually” a lot, you can use find to find all instances of actually and then go on to delete or replace them as needed.

You can also use Find to check your adverb usage. Adverbs, those -ly monsters can be found out by writing “ly” in the Find pane and then checking out each one to edit as required.

Words, phrases and even sentences can be found by writing in the navigation pane or just selecting a word or phrase and clicking on find. Watch below to see how to use “Find” effectively.

Animation showing how to use the "Find" function in MS Word
Using the “Find” function in MS Word

Using Replace

You started writing a story with one of your characters called Mary. halfway through your novel, you decided that Mary feels more like Susie to you. Now what! Do you start reading at the beginning and replace every Mary with a Susie for the last 176 pages? No. You use replace.

Click on Replace at the top right, enter Mary in the “Find What” column, write Susie in the “Replace With”, and click on “Replace All”. Voila! All done! You can go a step ahead and decide to write all your Susies in bold italics. Just pasting a bold italic Susie in the “Replace With” column will not do it. You click on more at the bottom left, open up the font options and click on bold italics, or whatever other options you decide to choose. You will see your choices next to Format just under the column.

You might have decided to keep the name Mary but you find that you have written Mary without a capital M at half a million places. Just write “mary” in “Find What” and “Mary” in “Replace With”. Click “Replace All”.

Or, you can choose to replace only the Italics version of Mary to Bold version of Mary. Write Mary in “Find What” and format italics, and Mary in “Replace With” and format Bold.

The combinations are as endless as your imagination. have a look at the animation to get a better idea.

Animation showing how to use the "replace" function in MS Word
Using the “Replace” function in MS Word

Writing Superscript and Subscript

Superscripts and subscripts are often used to add number notations for bibliography references or in scientific documents where you need to write things like °C or x². We can use superscripts and subscripts for this. Just write what you want, select it and click on superscript or subscript icons in the Home tab. Watch the animation to see how I have converted numbers to superscripts and subscripts.

Animation showing how to write superscripts and subscripts in MS Word
Writing Superscripts and Subscripts in MS Word

Go on. Try your hand, but remember to save an original copy first to make sure you don’t lose your entire document by mistake.

Cheers to tear-free editing!


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