How to Do Things with Word

A lot of academics express frustration with the limitations of Microsoft Word. Many of us turn instead to LaTeX for its more handsome typesetting and better handling of logical and mathematical formulae. This is probably best for anyone for whom the proper manipulation and display of such formulae is important, but many of the rest of us fear we don't have the time or inclination to learn the LaTeX markup language, or to troubleshoot code.

Luckily, new versions of Word are far more flexible, and have much better typesetting capabilities, than most people recognize. So I am putting together a short workshop for some of my colleagues about how to take advantage of what Word has to offer. Now you'll know what all those other features are that you never use! (Thanks to Aaron Segal for the clever title.)

I'm building an outline of that workshop here, and will make my presentation materials available when they're finished. If you want to explore on your own, or get geeky about typesetting (with or without Word), I strongly recommend a look through Butterick's Practical Typography.


This workshop assumes you're working with a recent version of Word (i.e. Word 2010 or Word 2011, or a version that can handle files with the .docx extension). These versions are available for free from Pitt Software Distribution Services.

This is not a baby workshop. I assume you already have basic competence with Word, including:

  • How to, like, type.
  • Basic character-level formatting (e.g. font, point size, italic/bold/underline, super- and subscripts).
  • Basic paragraph-level formatting (e.g. single vs. double line-spacing, alignment, columns).
  • Basic document/section-level formatting (e.g. margins, headers and footers, automatic page numbers).
  • Familiarity with bulleted and numbered lists.
  • Familiarity with basic spell-checking and word-counting.
  • How to insert symbols, draw simple shapes, and insert pictures.
  • Best practices of saving and version-control, including saving as pdf.

I'm not going to cover anything like that. Just juicy stuff.

This is a tentative list of topics. Topics in parentheses won't be covered unless people express interest.

Ontology of type and type composition

Characters, glyphs, typefaces, fonts.

The point, the em, and basic type anatomy (w/ introduction to optical sizing).

Beware the fraud: fake bold, fake italics, fake small caps.

Character entry: double-spaces, dashes, curly quotes & apostrophes, ellipses, dingbats.

(Foreign character-entry in Windows.)

(Regional variation: foreign spell-checking, quotation marks, the Oxford comma.)

OpenType features: ligatures, numerals, contextual alternates.

"Advanced" font manipulation (Alnica V. will love this).

Spacing characters: non-breaking spaces, en and em spaces, and the true nature of tabs.

Invisible formatting characters.

Basics of typesetting and best practices

Body text: font, margins (line length), line spacing (leading), alignment.

Word can hyphenate, but it's buggy.

Indenting and inter-paragraph spaces, carriage returns and hard line breaks.



Combining colors and typefaces, and font sizes.

Formatting with "Style"

Introducing the "Styles" pane.

Paragraph vs. character vs. combined styles (and ctrl+spacebar).

Common styles: normal, headings, emphasis, block quotes, insets, captions.

Never lose your head (widow and orphan control)

Numbered headings, heading variations, ersatz headings, hidden headings.

Controlling cultural exchange: paste special.

Importing style templates.

Advanced formatting

Tab stops done right (incl. tab leaders)

Learning to love tables.

The versatile text box: how to insert figures, tables, and images.

Cross-referencing, bookmarks, and hyperlinks.

Headers, footers, and sections (w/ columns and margin management).

Editing lists.

Rule-following (or: how to control that wriggly damn line with paragraph borders).

Embedding fonts in a Word document.

(Formatting charts.)

(Manual kerning in Word.)

Working with EndNote

Managing your references.

Build your library right: vigilant character entry in EndNote.

Turn Instant Formatting off.

ALT+2 is your friend.

Using the EndNote markup language.

Editing references without the markup language.

(Advanced: tweaking output styles.)

Recalcitrant bugs


Squandering your inheritance.

You can't have a table without legs.

EndNote references hate your style.

Fussing with the "Normal" style screwed up my footnotes.

The "Footnote numeral" style can't handle all OpenType features, e.g. alternate figures.

Recovering from bad hyphenation.

Excel doesn't support many OpenType features.

Word alternatives

PowerPoint, Prezi, and Publisher for presentations and posters.

(Using Excel or Visio to generate charts and figures.)