Somerset Times

Top 5 Tips for Microsoft Word




Somerset Times Edition

Week 4,
Term Two, 2016

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You’ve probably been using Microsoft Word for longer than you can remember, ever since you started writing assignments, but do you really know the ins and outs of Word?

Nowadays, everyone knows the basics of how to use Word, but does anyone really know the right way?

Kenta Arichi and Catherine Gerrard, Academic Captains, with Dr Michael Brohier, Deputy Headmaster

Here are my top 5 tips to make your documents look more professional:

  1. Have reasonable sized margins – Yes the teacher said only one page for your background research, but that does not mean you can make the margins smaller so you can cram more words on the page. Having margins any smaller than the default can make the document look very crowded and much harder for anyone to read.
  2. Don’t make your font too small – Again, even though the teacher said only one page, making the font smaller does not change that you’re still writing more than they wanted. Teachers aren’t stupid, they can see, or not see, that you’ve made the font smaller and will most likely just be annoyed that they are forced to read tiny font. Size 11 is the absolute minimum font size. Word and page limits are set for a reason; they want you to be able to write the assignment within the limit, and part of the criteria is “discerning selection, organisation and synthesis of relevant and substantive subject matter”. Do not ignore this point, as the word limit would not have been set if it was impossible to achieve.
  3. Use line spacing – to make a document easier to read, increase the line spacing to 1.5 or 2, as this puts more blank space on the page and makes the words easier to read. Instead of seeing a block of black text, the reader will see a balance of black and white, which their eyes will be able to process faster.
  4. Use an elegant font – Never use silly fonts, like Comic Sans, even if you think it looks cool. For a formal piece of writing, use a serious font such as Arial, Sans Serif or Times New Roman. Try to avoid using Cambria or Calibri, since these are the defaults and it can look like you haven’t put in the effort to format your assignment properly. No matter how pretty you think it looks, never use any Courier or script-style fonts, as it makes it extremely difficult to read and looks unprofessional.
  5. Justify your paragraphs – a little known feature of word is the justify tool. Instead of having the text aligned to the left, choose the last option, “justify text”, to make the writing be spaced out across the page evenly. This is used in newspapers and most formal documents, and makes the document look generally neater without text spaced messily all over the page.

These five things can dramatically improve the formatting of your assignments, and it only takes a few minutes to do. With a few simple tricks, you can make any document look more professional and easier for any marker to read.

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