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!