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Using Microsoft to format

There are a lot of word processing and presentation creation programs available.  Many are free.  Unfortunately, when it comes to options you get what you pay for and the flexibility you get with Microsoft is what makes it the leader in the market.  Anything you can imagine can be created with just the Microsoft Suite of products.  This guide discusses Word and the most commonly used feature on its tool bars.


Font:  Colors, Size, Font

Styles:  Use the headings in sequence.  Only one Heading 1 per document.  Styles are really useful for identifying the various components of a paper.  They also create a table of contents so you can jump around easily.   Heading 1, is for the title.  There is only one per document.  Heading 2 is typically used for subtitles, perhaps chapter breaks.  Headings 3, 4, and more are used if there is any reason to break your text into deeper subheadings.  In short works, these would rarely be used.  It is often easier to format the entire document the way individual paragraphs should be formatted, then just change the few Headings in the Home tab.

Paragraphs:  Justify, so it is neat along both edges.  Use the little arrow in the bottom right corner to access spacing, indentation, and more specific tools, such as hanging.

In general, do not use highlighting, coloring other than black, word art, text effects, or mixed fonts and sizes.  Most of the work you will need to submit in college will be formal in formatting.  These things are not formal.

There are specific instances in which bolding, underlining, italics, and quotation marks can be used.  Do not use any of these for emphasis.


One of the most common things you will do in this tab are insert Tables and Images.  Both are easy enough by simply clicking the icon and making choices. 

Do not leave the upper left corner of a table empty.  Screen readers can't handle that.  If you really need it to be empty type in an X and change the font color to white.

Always be sure the top row of a table is a header row.  This is done by right clicking on any box in that row and selecting Table Properties > Select the Row tab > toggle on Repeat as header row at the top of each page > OK.


You can choose a layout here.  These are preset style sets.  


The layout tab allows you to set your margins.  There will typically be no need to do this.  The standard for most papers will be one inch all around and that is the default for Word.  Making smaller margins so you end up with fewer words in the page is cheating and obvious.

This tab also allows for images to be anchored into text and wrap around.  This can be a challenging skill to learn, but results in very professional looking work.  There are plenty of YouTube tutorials if you are interested.


You will insert your footnotes here.  By selecting Insert Note, a number will appear both in your text and at the bottom of the paper.  Put the citation information by the number at the bottom.

Once you have footnotes, the option to Show Notes will appear.  You can use this to look at all your footnotes together to ensure formatting is accurate.

There is an option for Insert Citation.  This can be a useful tool, but requires some work.  You can enter all the bibliographical information and it will create a citation for you.  Some of the entry boxes can be confusing so early on you will have to look at the way the citation gets formatted and figure out which information you really need to put in which space.  For papers with dozens of sources that are used many times this is worth the work.  For shorter papers with only a handful of sources, it probably is not.

This is also a place you can enter a caption for your image.  It is easier to just right click on the image and select Enter Caption.


Your professors will probably attach comments to your work in the Review tab.  As you clear each item select Delete.  This is easier done by right clicking inside the comment.  Do not resubmit an assignment with comments still attached.

There is an option here to Read Aloud.  You should read it aloud yourself, but this is a good tool for double checking.  If something doesn’t make sense, reconsider how you phrase it.

Check accessibility is the other main option you will use here.  Accessibility is the ability of all users to access something.  While it is not commonly required in college because the only person reading your work is the professor, it is generally a requirement in the professional world so it is a good idea to develop the habit early.  There is usually an accessibility icon at the bottom left of a Word document you can just click on.

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