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Nuggets of Word wisdom

Guy van der Kolk first got hooked on publishing while attending an international school in Ivory Coast, where he used Pagemaker, Photoshop and an Apple Quicktake 100 camera to help create the yearbook. After many hours of hard work, while holding the final printed product, he knew this was an industry he wanted to be a part of.  Guy is now Senior Solutions Consultant for Typefi, he has spent the last 15 years training thousands of people to get the most out of their software.

There is absolutely no doubt that Microsoft Word is the most-used word processing application on the planet, especially in corporate environments.

However, the fact that something is the most-used application doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is adept at using it. As with all things, we humble users are often pressed for time and use software the way we were taught—if we were lucky enough to have received formal training.

In this article I’ll share some under-utilised tools that are particularly useful if you’re doing editorial work with structure and styles.

Note: The steps outlined in this article are based on Microsoft Word for Windows.

Invisible characters

Since everyone uses Word differently, it’s imperative to be able to see the underlying structure and identify extra hard returns, line breaks, multiple spaces, multiple tabs, and so on. Enable invisible characters (or hidden formatting marks) by clicking the Show/Hide icon in the Paragraph group of the Home tab.

Navigation pane

Headings are one of the easiest ways to navigate a document. As such, I always work with the Navigation pane set to Headings—it’s like a clickable table of contents that is always visible.

1. Go to the View tab and select the checkbox next to Navigation Pane (or type Ctrl + F).
2. Click the Headings tab in the Navigation pane.

You can now click on any heading in the Navigation pane and be taken straight to that area in the document.


Draft mode

I like working in View > Draft mode because it is a distraction-free environment. But I am also very interested in structure, and that means I want to be able to see paragraph styles easily. Luckily, there is a wonderful hidden feature for this that will instantly make you an advanced user.

1. Click File > Options.
2. Click Advanced.
3. Scroll down to the Display area.
4. Set a value for Style area pane width in Draft and Outline views. I usually set it to 1 (it is at 0 by default) to start and then drag the demarcation manually.
5. Click OK.
6. Drag the demarcation to the right until you can see the full names of your paragraph styles.


There is one important caveat when it comes to working in Draft mode: paragraph styles within table cells are not shown. Which brings us to our next feature…

Style Inspector

The Style Inspector is, without a doubt, the most useful tool when working with styles in Word. Amongst its many handy features, the following three stand out the most in day-to-day use.

1. Instantly see whichever paragraph and character styles are applied to your current cursor position.
2. View any instances of local formatting and styling applied on top of paragraph or character styles.
3. Easily remove any instances of local formatting you don’t want.

The Style Inspector is a bit of a hidden gem that requires a couple of steps to open.

1. Click the Home tab in the ribbon.
2. Open the Styles pane by clicking on the little arrow icon below the styles (or type Ctrl + Alt + Shift + S).
3. Click on the Style Inspector in the Styles pane: the middle icon with the looking glass.


After opening the Style Inspector, you can put your cursor anywhere in a paragraph to view the styling information for that entire paragraph. You can also select some text within a paragraph to look specifically at attributes for that particular selection.

The eraser icons allow you to remove any individual attributes, such as paragraph, character, or local formatting. This is by far the easiest way to clean up styling.

Using the Clear All button removes all local formatting and resets the paragraph to Normal.

Give it a go!

Put these tips into practice and you’ll level up as a Word user in no time. We’d also love to know the hidden Word features you use—tell us in the comments!

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