The Golden Rules of Word Every Lawyer Needs to Know
If you use Word, chances are you are not using it to its fullest potential. The following are some golden rules of Word to help you know when you're not using the program properly and/or you're missing a feature that would make your life easier.
Tip 1 - If It's Slow, Repetitive and Laborious, You're Doing It Wrong. Microsoft Word has automated almost everything you can imagine doing in Word, so there's probably a feature that makes the task you're struggling with much faster and easier. For example, there are features in Word for automatically building a table of contents and table of authorities. Not only can they be generated with two clicks, but they can automatically update themselves if subsequent changes are made to the document. The same is true for paragraph cross references. So if the document you're working on has numbered paragraphs and you need to include cross-references, they can be set up so that the cross-reference will always be correct no matter what has been added to or deleted from the document since the time you originally inserted the cross reference. So keep this golden rule in mind and you'll know when to start looking for a better way to handle the task you're engaged in.
Tip 2 - Never Use Spaces To Line Anything Up. Spaces (using the space bar) are only to be used for separating words. They are not ever properly used to line text up in your document. Lining things up is the job of tabs, indents or tables. Spaces often do not occupy the same amount of horizontal space and even if you get your text appears lined up correctly on the screen, when you print, it will be misaligned. The reason for this is that almost all fonts used in word processing are proportional. This means that each character has a different pitch or width. For example, "w" is wider "i". If you are trying to line up text, unless every row contains exactly the same words and characters, you will need a different number of spaces to get each of them in alignment. If you use tabs, indents or tables, you can avoid this problem entirely and save yourself hours of frustration.
Tip 3 - It Is Always Wrong to Type a Paragraph Number. Word has a very powerful auto-paragraph numbering feature and you need to learn how to use it. You should never have to manually re-number a bunch of paragraphs because you added or deleted a new one. To be clear, Word's auto paragraph numbering feature works perfectly every time once understood. Many people seem to believe it that this feature either doesn't exist or is just broken. Begin by clicking the Multilevel List button on the Home tab of the ribbon in Word 2007 or 2010 and choosing Define New Multilevel List from the menu that appears. It is extremely important that every legal user understand and master this feature.
Tip 4 - It Is Always Wrong to Separate Single Spaced Paragraphs with Extra Hard Returns. This just makes it easy for you to end up with too many blank lines between paragraphs or not enough blank lines. Further, the concept of word processing is to hit as few keystrokes as possible to get the text formatted the way you want. In this case, there is a feature for automatically adding space before and/or after your paragraphs that completely eliminates the possibility that it will be incorrect. To utilize this feature, type your paragraphs without extra hard returns between them. Now select them, right-click the selected text and choose Paragraph from the menu that appears. On the Indents and Spacing tab, enter a 12 pt After under the spacing heading and click the OK button.
Tip 5 - Always Click the "More" Button. Word has a nasty habit of hiding things you really need to see. The only way you'll be able to see them is by clicking "More" buttons. If you see one in a dialog, always click it! For example, if you select 'Find and Replace', clicking the "More" button lets you specify your search. You can search for only whole words that match, or have your search results match the case exactly.
Tip 6 - Improper Formatting Can Be Easily Fixed With Word's Magic Paint Brush. It's common to find text in your documents which is not formatted properly. As long as you can find text formatted correctly, you can easily fix the bad formatting using the Format Painter button in the Clipboard group of the Home tab on the ribbon . To use this Format Painter, follow these steps.
1. Click anywhere in the text which is formatted correctly. Don't select text, just place your cursor in the text. In the example below, paragraph 4 is formatted correctly and paragraph 3 is not. Put your cursor somewhere in the middle of paragraph 4.
2. Now, left-click the Format Painter button on the Home tab of the ribbon. You have effectively dipped your paint brush into the formatting you want to replicate elsewhere. You'll notice that your mouse pointer turns into a brush when you hover over text in the document.
3. Apply the same formatting to other text by left-clicking, holding down the left mouse button and select the entire paragraph which is formatted improperly (paragraph 3 in this example). Make sure you include the hard return at the end of the target paragraph. Now paragraph 3 looks like this:
4. After you release the mouse button, the Format Painter automatically turns off. If you want to turn on the Format Painter and keep it on until you're done selecting multiple sections of text, double-click the Format Painter button in step 2 above. When you're done, single click the button and it will turn off again.
Tip 7 - Word Has Inter-Paragraph Glue: This function automatically keeps paragraphs together on the same page so they cannot be separated by a page break. To keep paragraphs together, just follow these steps:
1. Right-click the paragraph under which you want to apply glue. In the screen shot below, you would simply right-click the paragraph entitled "Loans". In the menu that appears, choose Paragraph.
2. Once you're in the Paragraph dialog, click the Line and Page Breaks tab.
3. Check the Keep With Next and click OK. Leave the Orphan/Widow box checked.
Tip 8 - Word Has Intra-Paragraph Glue. Sometimes, you have a paragraph that you don't want chopped into pieces by a page break (acknowledgments and the like). This function keeps the lines from a paragraph or paragraphs from being broken by a natural page break. For example, in this screen shot, I don't necessarily want to glue paragraph (e) to paragraph (f); but I want to keep (e) together on the same page since it's only 3½ lines.
To take care of this issue:
1. Right-click the paragraph for which you'd like to keep the lines together.
2. Choose Paragraph from the menu that appears.
3. On the Line and Page Breaks tag, check the Keep Lines Together box. Leave the Orphan/Widow box selected. Click the OK button.
- Barron K. Henley, Esq., Affinity Partner