Just about every e-mail I get requesting help in MS Word, involves formatting. So, for that reason I thought I would do a little refresher course article – a cheat sheet if you will – that you can print and keep for future reference. Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind helping anyone – please do not think I do not want to help you! I do know, though, that there are a lot of folks out there who need an answer a lot more quickly than I can answer their e-mail usually.
So when you are pressured to get something finished and it is needed yesterday, the last thing you need is the anxiety of waiting for me to answer your e-mail because you cannot fix the formatting in your document! Been there, done that and it isn’t any fun at all!
In that regard, I will now share with you my little arsenal of tips and tricks to quickly locate the issue in your document and fix it as quickly as possible.
You may not realize it, but Microsoft Word has some pretty handy and useful tools that you can utilize to examine your document, find the issue and fix it. Some of those are:
- Status Bar
- Reveal formatting (yes, there really is such a thing in Word!)
Let’s start with your Status Bar – that would be the gray bar at the bottom of your Word window. You will be amazed at all the different information that can be utilized there to diagnose whatever problem you may be experiencing. Most folks have no idea that they can use this to help them. But first, you must learn how. So go ahead and right-click anywhere on a blank space on your Status Bar. You will immediately see a contextual menu display.
I am a big proponent of having as many options as possible checked off . They are available to you so why not use them right? Suppose you are in a document that has sections and you are experiencing issues with the footers, especially when you are working on a document that has been imported from WordPerfect, which very often has embedded section breaks. This can be very helpful in that situation.
Next in my arsenal is Show/Hide. I know that just about every other person I get mail from decries this extremely useful tool. They tell me “oh it is so distracting I never use it.” However, once they are able to resolve an issue in their document using this little workhorse feature, they usually decide that perhaps they can get used to it after all. And even if you DO still find it distracting, for pity sake turn it on when you are experiencing an issue! I leave my Show/Hide on all the time because I like to see what is going on with my documents. I don’t consider it distracting at all.
You can turn this on by clicking on the Home tab on your Ribbon, and in the Paragraph Group, click on the Pilcrow (it looks like a backwards P – it is the paragraph mark).
Once you turn it on yo will be able to see everything that is going on in your document.
As you can see above, you now can see your indents, spaces, paragraphs, etc. Sometimes this enables you to make a quick and easy adjustment to straighten out whatever problem you are experiencing.
Next, one of biggest complaint I get (usually from former WordPerfect users) is why can’t Word have Reveal Codes?
Well they do, (kinda, sorta), but in Word they are called Reveal Formatting and it also can be a lifesaver when you are trying to troubleshoot a problem document.
You can get a lot more information about your document using this handy feature. All you have to do to access it is click Shift | F1. The Reveal Formatting will display on the right-hand side of your Word screen.
Once that is displayed, wherever you put your cursor in your document, Reveal Formatting will show you how the text is formatted, AND it will give you hyperlinks to take you right to the correct menu to fix it. Pretty handy isn’t it?
If you want to see why one paragraph doesn’t resemble the others in your document, just place your cursor in your first paragraph and check the box at the top of the Reveal formatting pane that says Compare to another selection. Then click in the paragraph you would like to compare it to. It will now show you the differences!
Now, if you have utilized all the work horses above and still cannot find out what is causing the issue in your document, you still have some help available to you that can help you tame the beast your document has become.
Look carefully at your document and if you see some other text that looks how you want your document to look, the quickest way to accomplish that is to use the Format Painter.
On the Home tab of your Ribbon, in the Clipboard group, you will see an icon that looks like a small paintbrush.
Click in the the paragraph that you would like the errant paragraph to look like and click on the format painter.
Next, click and drag the Paintbrush over the paragraph you want to change.
If you need to change several paragraphs at once, simply double-click the Paintbrush icon rather than single click and it will allow you to fix multiple instances of your problem.
Ok, so for when you are really and totally under the gun and you don’t give a fig why your document is screwed up – you just want it fixed – and the faster the better, I am going to give you some Quick Fixes to utilize.
CTRL | Space – This handy little shortcut will remove all character-lever formatting (i.e., fonts, underlining, bolding, italics, etc.) Simply select the text you want to fix and click this key combination. Depress your CTRL key and tap your space bar.
CTRL | Q – This will remove all paragraph level formatting (i.e., indents, line spacing, spacing before and after, etc.). Again just select the text and depress your CTRL key and tap the letter Q.
CTRL | Shift | N – This will return your selected text to Normal formatting (bear in mind that Normal is defined as that document’s Styles. Here, you will select your text and simultaneously depress CTRL | Shift and tap the letter N on your keyboard.
Using any of the key combinations above will return the text in your document to text that you can work toward fixing without using the other steps above, much more quickly.
I hope you have found these tools helpful and that you will avail yourself of them the next time you are in a spot with your Word document.