Microsoft Word is many authors’ go-to software for writing. The platform is relatively simple and straightforward, making it a convenient and reliable choice. If you’ve mastered the basics of Word—like changing fonts, spacing, and simple formatting—you can now try out some of the software’s more advanced features. Here are a few tips to help authors utilize Microsoft Word to the next level.

Saving and Converting
Saving a document is pretty simple. You just click the small “Save” icon, which looks like a floppy disc, in the top left corner of the window. When you click this, a small window will appear, offering more options on how and where to save your document.

When you click on “Where” you can change the location of where your document will end up. It usually defaults to “Desktop,” which means it will show up on your computer’s home screen, or wherever your last file was saved to. Other options include “Documents,” which is a file containing all of your computer’s saved documents, and “Remote Locations,” which is where USB flash-drives and hard-drives will appear if they’re in your computer. You can also access individual folders you’ve created on your computer here.

This window also allows you to change the format of your document. When you click on “Format,” a dropdown bar will appear. Here, you can choose to save your document as a Word Document, Word Template, or PDF, to name a few formast. If you plan on editing this document in Word again, save it as a Word Document. This format will save the document exactly as it appears in Word. A Word Template will save your settings and formatting exactly, so you can use it as a beginning template for other documents. We’ll cover templates more later on in the post.

A PDF, or Portable Document Format, saves your document as a file that can be exchanged and read on any computer. If you’re working or writing for somebody without Word, a PDF is an easy way to be sure they can view your writing. To convert your document, simply click the PDF option in the “Format” box. If you receive a PDF, you can also convert it back into a Word Document to edit it. Click on “File” and then “Open” in the dropdown menu to find a file. If a file is a PDF, Word will automatically convert the document into an editable Word document when you click to open it. Because these platforms are different, there may be slight differences in the documents after converting them, especially if the document contains graphics.

A template is a sample document that comes with pre-determined formatting and styles. Microsoft Word has a large gallery of pre-made templates to choose from, including calendars, letterheads, resumes, and reports. To access these templates, go to the very top of your screen and click on “File” in the navigation bar. A dropdown menu will appear; click on “New from Template.” A menu of templates will appear, where you can browse different styles and categories of templates and find the perfect one for you.

“Blank” is the default template for Word. If you just want to write text, stick to this option. You can also create your own templates. If you like to format your writing in a certain way, create the document as you normally would. When you go to save your document, click “Word Template” as the format. This will let you access the same formatting and styles of the document for future use.

If you want to set up a basic format for new manuscripts, you can create a template with whichever elements you need to include. Although requirements differ between publishers, most editors will expect manuscripts to include a title page, dedication, chapters, acknowledgements, an author bio, and other optional elements. A Word template lets you create a shell that includes these different elements and saves you the trouble of formatting a document every time you begin a new manuscript.

Track Changes
If you’re a writer or editor, Word’s Track Changes feature will become your best friend. This feature automatically tracks and marks up new changes made to the document. If you send your manuscript to an editor in Microsoft Word, they’ll likely use Track Changes to mark edits and add comments.

To access the feature, click on the “Review” tab in the main navigation bar. Clicking the large button over “Track Changes” turns on the feature, so you can select what type of changes you want to track. The options listed will depend on which year’s software you have, but the main options include simple markup, no markup, all markup, and original. “Simple Markup” is the default and will place a red line in the margin where any new changes are inserted. “No Markup” hides the markup and shows how the incorporated changes will appear. “All markup” will indicate all edits made to the document with different colors of text and lines. “Original” will show the document in its original form.

You can accept and remove changes with this feature. “No markup” hides the changes, but does not delete them entirely. To delete the changes, you have to either accept or remove them in either the top navigation bar or where changes appear in the margins. The check mark icon accepts the changes so they’ll appear in the final text. The red x icon removes the changes so they won’t appear in the final text.

This feature also allows you to comment on parts of your document. To write a comment, highlight the section of text you want to discuss and click the “New” icon under comments. A new comment field will appear, letting you write a short note. If you’re working with an editor, you can both ask questions, write reminders, or suggest edits and respond to each other—a without changing the final text itself.

Headers and Footers
Adding headers and footers is a small but useful tool. A header is text that is included at the top of each page throughout a document. Footers appear at the bottom of each page. Click on the “Document Elements” tab in the main navigation bar to find the “Header and Footer” section.

Clicking on either option will display a menu of different headers and footers to add to your document. You can choose ones that display the document title, date, or your name. Click on one of these options and a new field will appear at the very top (or the bottom) of each page in the document. Double-click this field to write or edit the header or footer. Remember: what you write here will show up on each page. You can also add page numbers by clicking on the “Page #” option. This is a great way to organize and keep track of different parts of a document.

If your work includes references, it’s important to be able to cite them properly, but with Microsoft Word, you no longer have to find the correct format and try to make it work with the information you have. In the “Document Elements” menu you can find a section for citations and references. Under citations, you can click on “Footnote” or “Endnote” to automatically format these citations.

You can also write citations and produce your bibliography under the “References” section, by selecting which style citation you want to make from the options (APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian). The type of content you’re writing will dictate which kind of citations you use. To write an individual citation, click on “Manage,” and a new window titled “Citations” will appear. Click on the + icon at the bottom of the window, and another window titled “Create New Source” will appear. You can add all of the source’s information here, and Word will automatically create a citation entry that follows your chosen style guidelines. Once you’ve added all your sources, click on the “Bibliography” button to choose your bibliography style, and a bibliography with all of your sources will be added to the end of your document.


These are just some of Microsoft Word’s advanced functions. These features can be intimidating at first, but experimenting with different tools will empower you to utilize the program fully.