A blog about writing and self publishing

MS Word Tips for Authors

By Vanessa Ghosh

Here’s a quick list of time-saving and book-beautifying tips for Microsoft Word. If you have any to add, feel free to post them in the comments!

And since toying with Word might be the least thrilling part of writing a book, the list is balanced with the top 5 tips for your Underwood No. 5 typewriter, because which would you rather read about:

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WORD: Reveal hidden formatting marks to tidy up your book.

If you’ve never used this button before, befriend it now!


When you select this button, it replaces all the hidden formatting decisions you’ve made in your document with formatting marks. So there’s a mark for hard returns, soft returns, spaces, page breaks, section breaks, etc.

The best recipe for converting a beautiful eBook from a Word document is to use this button and then check your formatting against our Conversion Guidelines.

UNDERWOOD: There is no key for the number “1” on the typewriter. Instead just select the lowercase “L”.



WORD: Take advantage of the paragraph tool.

The paragraph tool is your go-to for setting up line spacing, indents, and tabs. You will at the very least want to take advantage of that “After” spacing field, which lets you customize the amount of space appearing below each paragraph before the next one starts.


UNDERWOOD: There is no exclamation mark! Instead, you’ll need to press the period then backspace and place an apostrophe over the same spot.



WORD: Use hot keys to do everything faster.

Here are the basics:

  • CTRL + S – Save
  • CTRL + X – Cut
  • CTRL + C – Copy
  • CTRL + V – Paste
  • CTRL + SHIFT + C – Copies formatting of selected text
  • CTRL + SHIFT + V – Pastes formatting onto new selection
  • SHIFT + F5 – Jumps to most recently edited sections
  • CTRL + Click a word – Highlights the entire sentence

I should warn you though that CTRL + S is known to cause a bit of a hand twitch–once you start using it, you won’t be able to go more than a minute or two without it.

UNDERWOOD: If you make a mistake, select Backspace, and then write an X on top of each wrong letter.


WORD: Use the Track Changes option when editing (or at least when editing someone else’s work).

Track Changes is the equivalent of editing with a red pen, except infinitely more convenient.

When you turn on Track Changes, any new text you add will appear in a new colour, and any text you delete will remain on the page but with a strike-through. What’s great about it is that the author of the document can skip between each edit and choose to either “accept” or “reject” it.

UNDERWOOD: You can make red markings on a typewriter by switching the ribbon to the red side.


WORD: Use Find & Replace for words, symbols, formatting, and so on.

You probably already know that you can use the Find and Replace option to replace a word in your book with a different word… But did you know that you can also use this function for formatting? For example, you can choose to find all Section Breaks in your book and then leave the replace field empty and it will replace all Section Breaks with “nothing”, effectively deleting them.

It even lets you find all words that are in a particular font and replace them with a different font! Almost anything you want to find and change in your document you can do using Find and Replace.


UNDERWOOD: Obey the “Do Nots” as specified in the original “Instructions for Using The Underwood Typewriter – Models 3, 4, 5”:

4 Responses to “MS Word Tips for Authors”

    • Kobo Writing Life

      Italics will be reflected in the conversion from doc to ePub. Hope this helps!

  1. Prakash Bansod

    I have the following to add:
    1) Use the Insert Bookmark option when editing your manuscript. This will help you to get back to the line that you were last editing
    2) The Flesch-Kincaid scoring is a useful way to find out how easy it is to read your copy. It gives the equivalent grade level of the selected region or the whole book. I have heard from a reliable source that successful authors try to keep their F-K score as low as possible, between 4 and 6. To turn this on, go to Options and select on the Spelling and Grammar tab. Then check ‘Show readable statistics.’


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