Working with over a hundred people on their business writing over the past seven days, I recognized once again that people's writing can be slowed down and weakened by something that has nothing to do with words.
That something is lack of knowledge of Microsoft Word features.
When people space manually to indent a list, when they delete a sentence they just typed by backspacing space by space, when they insert numbers one by one before the steps in a procedure, they are slowing down their thinking process and creating a document that is difficult to edit and easy to make errors in.
If you want to write quickly and efficiently in Microsoft Word--or if you want your team to--be sure you know how to:
- Change the size of margins in a document without tabbing or spacing.
- Vary the font size, color, and type.
- Number items automatically.
- Create bullet points without typing a dash (--) before each one.
- Vary the amount of white space between lines of text automatically.
- Find and replace words and strings of text (for example, to change global to worldwide).
- Insert frequently used words and phrases automatically to avoid having to type them and think about how to spell them. Proper names like Philippines should not be slowing you down.
- Create simple tables.
- Insert special characters such as copyright symbols.
- Check for errors in spelling, grammar, and style.
- Make the type look bigger on the screen for easy proofreading, without changing the font size.
- Undo a change or series of changes (and then undo the undoing if necessary).
Do you and your team know how to do these things? If not, you can attend a class, get advice from your information technology (IT) department, or complete online tutorials. The time you invest in your software skills will pay off instantly in more efficient writing.
These ideas come from my guide Help Employees Write Better: A Guide for Managers, Trainers, and Others Who Care About Business Writing. If you would like 59 more solutions to employee writing problems, consider buying the guide for your company.