5 Must-Know Microsoft Word Formatting Hacks

By Robert Half on May 12, 2014 at 7:00am

About to format a document in Microsoft Word? Don’t overlook these steps that can streamline your work.

By now you’ve picked up so many Microsoft Word tips, tricks and keyboard shortcuts, you could probably teach a class. Yet, somehow, no matter how expert you become, there are always a few hidden gems left to discover.

Laying out and formatting your documents is time-consuming and fiddly work, so the more secrets you learn, the better. To streamline your Word formatting and whip your pages into shape like a pro, check out these five little-known Wordhacks:

1. Insert anywhere

You’re staring at a blank Word document and you need to create a good-looking layout. No need to hit Return and Tab a dozen times to move the cursor around the page. Simply double-click anywhere and you’re ready to insert text right there. If you already have your text prepared, paste it. If not, read on to learn how to add placeholder copy.

2. Prepare with placeholders

Did you know you can get documents looking immaculate even before you have final text? Using placeholder copy lets you do all your Microsoft Word formatting in advance, then replace the dummy text with the real thing when you’re ready.

To add random text in English, first decide how many paragraphs (x) and how many lines per paragraph (y) you want to add. Then type =rand(x,y) and press Enter. For example, =rand(2,5) instantly gives you two five-lined paragraphs to play with.

To look like a real pro, try using the pseudo-Latin “lorem ipsum” dummy text that designers prefer to use. It’s less distracting than actual words but still has the same distribution of letters. Just replace =rand with =lorem.

3. Let’s stay together

Some words belong together. For example, the last thing your boss wants to see is a line break in the middle of the company’s name. You never have to worry about that again thanks to this next one in our lineup of Microsoft Word tips.

Instead of an inserting a regular space between words, press Ctrl+Shift+space to get a non-breaking space. It looks exactly the same to the reader, but it permanently holds the words together for you. The same applies to Ctrl+Shift+- for non-breaking hyphens. (Mac users: Replace Ctrl with Cmd.)

4. Find and replace formatting

Find and Replace isn’t just for words. You can use the command to change all instances of Microsoft Word formatting, too. For example, change bold to underlined, or red to blue. 

Use Ctrl+H to open the Find and Replace dialogue box (Mac users: Shift+Cmd+H). Delete any text in the Find box and then click More. (Mac users: Click Advanced Find & Replace.) Now use the Format option to choose and change any Microsoft Word formatting — from font and paragraph styles to tabs and language. Use one click on Replace All, and formatting throughout your document is fully updated.

5. Always the same with AutoCorrect

Are you tired of pausing to italicize the same report title every time you mention it? Use AutoCorrect to automatically format any frequently used text.

First, select the text and format it (e.g., OfficeTeam 2014 Salary Guide). Now create an Autocorrect short code for it (e.g., ot2014sg). Access the Autocorrect dialogue box from the File menu at Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options (Mac users: Tools > AutoCorrect). Just type in your short code and click “Add.” Now, each time you type the code, it will be replaced with the full, formatted text.

These Microsoft Word tips and tricks should save you time and hassle. Don't keep them to yourself — share them with your coworkers to make everyone’s jobs a little easier. And if you have any additional pointers, share them in the comments section below.

More From the Blog...