Word 2007 for Writers: Part 5 – Proofreading and Editing Tricks
I tend to prefer old-fashioned pen and paper for going over my drafts and marking revisions and edits. The screen has never struck me as a good medium for reading longer works on, and I think differently with a pen in hand than with a keyboard under my fingers.
That said, Word 2007 puts a lot of useful tools at your fingertips for proofreading and editing. Of course, there’s spell-check, which is a useful tool when used wisely and carefully (I can’t tell you how many papers I’ve read by students who apparently ran spell-check and simply accepted whatever changes Word recommended). But there are a lot more little tools that can prove very useful indeed — you just need to know where to look.
Here then, in no particular order, is a grab-bag of tips and tricks for editing and proofreading using Word 2007. Some of these tips might work for earlier versions of Word, but since I don’t have an earlier version available, I can’t test them to make sure.
Add space between paragraphs
If you’re like me and print your documents out to proofread them, you could probably use a little more space between paragraphs for notes and additions. Hit CTRL-A to select the entire document, then hit CTRL-0 (that’s a “zero”, not an “oh”) to add an extra line of space between every paragraph. To revert back to normal spacing, just do it again and all the extra spaces will disappear.
Word 2007 includes a readability analyzer, which uses the length of sentences, the average syllable-count of your words, and other factors to determine how easy or hard your writing is to read. While it’s not a perfect measure, you can get a pretty good idea, especially from the “Grade Level” ranking, which tells you how many grades of education someone would need to understand what you write. I try to aim for something around 7th-9th grade as a general rule, although I usually end up closer to 10th. (This paragraph has a rating of 14.3, which means you need a couple of years of college to read it — like I said, it’s not a perfect measure!)
To activate it, click on the “Home” button (the big round button at the top right corner), click “Word Options”, go to the “Proofing” tab, and check the box next to “Show readability statistics”. Once you’ve done that, readability figures will come up in the results box after you run a spelling and grammar check.
Highlight passive voice
The “Reading Highlight” feature is useful for a lot of things, but I think it’s an especially neat way to check your writing for passive voice use. What Reading Highlight does is perform a search but, instead of taking you to the next instance of your search terms, it highlights all instances throughout the text.
To use it, select a highlight color from the “Home” tab, then hit CTRL-F to bring up a search window. Enter your search term or phrase, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Highlight All”. Click “Close” and watch your highlights appear. To remove the highlighting, re-open the search box, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Clear Highlighting”. Again, click “Close” and the highlighting will be gone.
How do you use this to find passive sentences? Well, we know that most passive statements use the verb “to be” in some form or another. So we want to search for “be” in all its variants: is, was, are, am, were, etc.
Open the search dialog (CTRL-F), type “be” as your search term, and click the “More” button. Put a check in the box next to “Find all word forms”, click the “Reading Highlight” button and select “Highlight All”, and click “Close”. Now, every permutation of “to be” will be highlighted. Not all of them are going to be passive — or too passive, anyway — but many will. Rewrite all those sentences to have more active verbs.
Look at two parts of your document at the same time
Word’s “Split” view allows you to look at two different parts of your document at the same time, scrolling through each part independently. On the “View” tab, select “Split” (in the “Window” section). You will be given a line to place on the page — place it where you’d like (I prefer straight down the middle) and now you can scroll to two separate parts of the same document — useful for cutting and pasting from one chapter to another, reviewing bibliographic citations to make sure you haven’t left anything out of the “Works Cited” page, or keeping a chapter outline visible at the top of the screen while you work at the bottom.
To revert to a normal view, just click the same button (now marked “Remove Split”) again.
Edit in Print Preview
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at document in Print Preview, right before printing, and found one little thing that I need to correct. Well, instead of closing Print Preview, making your change and then previewing your changes again, you can make quick edits directly in Print Preview.
To do so, simply remove the checkmark next to “Magnifier” in the “Preview” group on the Print Preview menu. Now, instead of zooming in when you click on the document, your cursor will be placed into the text and you can make your edits.
Your tips and tricks
Word 2007 is a huge and complex piece of software. Even using the tips in this series, you’ll still only be using a fraction of its power. What other tricks do you know that offer particular aid to writers? Let us know in the comments!
This series is incredibly useful (even though I don’t have the latest version of Word)! I’m saving these five posts as PDFs on my desktop.
Excellent series. What about tricks for those of us still using Word 2003? Any pointers?
Craig: See my follow-up on passive voice highlighting in 2003 at http://www.writerstechnology.com/2008/08/word-passive-voice-highlighting-revisited-now-for-word-2003
Also, a lot of these tips will work in 2003, but since the navigation is different (menus vs. ribbon) I can’t give precise instructions. Styles, table of content generating, sections, outlining — 2003 does all of that. Even 2000 does most of it. And I’d venture to guess that OpenOffice does most of it, too — sections and styles are crucial word processing tools. The little tricks might not work, but you might figure out alternative ways to do the same thing (like the person who showed how to do passive voice highlighting in Word on Mac in comments on the post I just linked to).
Terrific and useful series, thanks for the timely reminders.
I’ve encountered a problem with Word’s readability checker for which I’m hoping you might have a solution. The “grade level” ranking algorithm factors the complexity of individual words into the overall ranking. In cases where you can’t substitute terms of art for smaller or “easier” words (such as in instructional and science writing), the ranking ends up being skewed artificially high.
For example, many years ago I wrote textbooks for the construction trades. The client wanted the text to be no higher than an 8.5 grade reading level, but the text required many technical terms and phrases such as “reduced pressure zone backflow preventer” that pegged the top of the scale no matter how simple the sentence.
The (admittedly awkward) compromise we suggested was this: with all terms clearly defined on first use and with a glossary at the back of the book for reference, it could be assumed that readers would quickly become familiar with the meaning of the technical term, thus rendering it the functional equivalent of a “simple” word.
So, if the client wanted to check the readability level of the sentence “Install the reduced pressure zone backflow preventer according to the manufacturer’s instructions,” it could substitute a simple word for the term of art (e.g., “shoe”) and check the readability of the result: “Install the shoe according to the manufacturer’s instructions.” (I’m just making this example up — please don’t run it through the checker! 🙂 )
In practice, we were never called on to verify individual sentences that way because we quickly learned to write to an 8.5 grade level pretty much on sight. But I’ve always wondered if there was a better way to circumvent that problem. Any ideas?
Paul: You ask good questions, and I’m afraid I don’t know enough to say anything meaningful. The whole “readability analysis” thing is very mysterious to me — I just trust that it’s giving me a figure that’s *roughly* useful. I would think that the grade level indicator is aimed at a *general* education — specialized fields need specialized vocabulary that wouldn’t be part of a normal education. So I’d expect to see a somewhat higher readability level where a specialized vocabulary was used, regardless of the field. But that’s guesswork…
Hello. How do I print my proofreading comments?
This was a useful article to me.
I’d like to see an article on building and using Indexes for documents. The process seems to be labor intensive and there must be things that I am missing that would make it easier.
I’m not sure if you’re talking about using Master Documents or about indexing a book, but both are covered on the site. Use the “Search” bar at the top, I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for 🙂
I was asking about using the index options on the References Ribbon, the Mark Entry and Insert Index options. This is in reverence to indexing a document as you would for a book. I did search for this as you suggested and found one entry, but in that article you do not use the index functions provided for by word at all.
Perhaps this is because you also don’t find this a very functional tool or perhaps I have missed an article. But like you said in your article building an index is not easy. I was just hoping that there might be some tricks I did not know about.
Ah, got it. I believe that’s an Office 2010 feature. In any case, I’ve never used it. Sorry…
Regarding the indexing question: I used the Word 2007 indexing tools to create a simple index for a 98 page book. Once I got used to what was at first a frightening barrage of codes and symbols, it was relatively easy to create an index. (But I was working with a short book. A larger one would of course be more time-consuming.)
If I’m remembering correctly, I used the MS Word help topic “How to create an index” to get started.
Thanks for the tip, my prevous micros soft word version had a passive sentence search tool but the new stuff doesn’t have it well I spent the money and the new stuff doesn’t out preform the old and it is a step backwards for my money. thanks for the work around, on the passive sentence checker.