Microsoft Word: Trusted Friend or Bucking Bronc?

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by Rhonda Dragomir

Hunched over my keyboard, lights dimmed so as not to keep my husband awake, I type feverishly on my manuscript. It’s due tomorrow. Though it’s past midnight, I push ahead. If I finish, I’ll sleep better.

There. Perfect. One more review and I’ll let it rest until morning. But wait . . . where on earth did that weird line come from? I didn’t put it there!

Cursor at the end of the line, backspace, backspace. Nope, that didn’t work. Highlight, delete. Nope. The line smirks, determined to remain no matter what I do. Microsoft Word has done it again—rather than being my trusted steed in the writing rodeo, it turned into a bucking bronc and launched me into a pile of manure.

If you write, you probably use Microsoft Word, but sometimes it feels like Word uses you. I’d love to regain all the lost hours I’ve spent searching for a solution or a work-around to a frustrating glitch.

I’ve often had the unfortunate distinction of being the person in the office who knew the most about Word’s quirks. If I didn’t know how to solve the problem-of-the-day, my coworkers knew I would figure it out. I’m a resolute rider, and once I land in a pile of manure, I’m determined not to smell like that again.

One way to stay in the saddle is to customize Word with presets that benefit writing professionals. The default font should be Times New Roman in a 12-point size. However, most writers have clicked “set as default font” time after time, only to open a new document and find Calibri 11-point again! The secret is buried deep within the bronc’s psyche, and only a horse-whisperer can figure it out—or a determined manure-o-phobe like me. Here’s a hint: you need to find, edit, and save the normal.dotm file.

Sometimes Word and I mosey along blissfully under blue skies. Everything formats beautifully, but storm clouds lurk on the horizon. I want to paste a piece of researched material from another document or the internet into my manuscript. Highlight, copy, paste . . . splat. That’s the sound of my chaps hitting the muck. Word uses the formatting (fonts, colors, line spacing) of the original document, and my manuscript looks like a nag instead of a registered quarter horse. With just a few clicks, you can wrangle Word to match your preset document format when pasting.

You may not know Word will also do these nifty tricks:

Calculate and display your word count as you write
Save directly to the Cloud—every time
Auto-save your document at customized time increments
Estimate the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score of your manuscript
Find little words like “is” without also finding “antidisestablishmentarianism”

People sometimes ask, “Rhonda, how’d you get to be such an experienced Word wrangler?” The easy answer is that I can spell G-o-o-g-l-e. A better answer is that I just hate manure.

Rhonda Dragomir is a multimedia creative who treasures her fairy tale life in Central Kentucky, insisting her home is her castle, even if her prince refuses to dig a moat. Rhonda has garnered numerous writing awards for both fiction and nonfiction, including being a finalist in ACFW’s 2020 Genesis Contest for her historical romance. View her published works and read excerpts of her works in progress at www.rhondadragomir.com.

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