Guest Tip of the Week: Helpful Microsoft Word Tips

By Alan Taylor

Microsoft Word has become a very mature and powerful document editing application from its humble beginnings in 1983. This 30 year lifespan has created a powerhouse application with features many of us never discover (or, in some cases, ever need).

If you use Microsoft Word on a regular basis, the following tips may help you become more of a “Power User.” Some of these tips help cut down time spent manipulating text while others illuminate features that can help with your writing and document collaboration and production.

What I’ve found while helping Word users navigate features is that many already know of these functions but rarely use them simply because they’re not “ingrained.” If you were to practice the following tips 10 times each, you might just start using these features regularly. And believe me, once you start using these tips, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start using them way back! Quick tip: These functions work across most of the Microsoft Office suite including Excel and PowerPoint.

  • Keyboard shortcuts: By using the Control (ctrl) key on a Windows keyboard, you can save a great amount of time by avoiding all of the mouse movement involved with executing each function. Use these shortcuts by first pressing the “ctrl” key and then simultaneously pressing:
    • S = Save the document (if you’ve not saved it yet, a “Save As” dialogue box will appear)
    • C = Copy selected text to the clipboard
    • V= Paste selected text from the clipboard to the cursor’s location (if text is highlighted during this function, it will be replaced with the pasted text).
    • I = Italics – make selected text italicized.
    • B = Bold – make selected text bold.
    • Z = Undo last action. If you really don’t like what you’ve done, you can undo last action many times.
    • P = Print – opens the print dialogue box
    • A = Selects entire document
    • Shift+> – Make text larger. Press “ctrl” AND “shift” AND “>” simultaneously to get this one.
    • Shift+< – Make text smaller.
  • When in doubt, right click – If you’re at a point editing or formatting a document and don’t know how to perform a function, try right-clicking. The menu that appears is a “contextual menu” meaning that the commands shown are tailored to what Word thinks you might want to do. For instance, if you select a few words of text and right click, the menu shows the popular functions that you can perform on a selected piece of text (copy, paste, font selection etc).
  • Use Track Changes when asking for input from others. If you collaborate on documents with others who proof, edit, contribute to or otherwise change your document (especially multiple people), “Track Changes” is for you. Track Changes is available from the “Review” menu item. Once you turn it on and send the document to others, all of that subsequent work is highlighted. In order to incorporate it permanently into the document, you have to “accept changes” from the same “Review” menu item (once the document is sent back to you). This is a life-saver in being able to see exactly what changes were made in a document.
  • Compare two documents. Along the same lines as track changes, if you have two documents that should be the same yet are different somehow, “Compare” (found in the “Review” menu item again) is the perfect tool for finding those differences. The Compare function also includes a “Combine” feature that can combine changes from multiple authors into a single document.

Alan Taylor is this week’s guest blogger. His  first Word Processing program was called WordStar, which was loaded into a computer using floppy disks. Alan has been involved with technology from leading a 20-person IT department for a Fortune-500 company in Silicon Valley to running his own consulting business, Alpine Technical Group, which focuses on web presence including website design, SEO/SEM, social and online marketing. 

We appreciate your recommending a Gail Tycer business writing workshop for your workplace, or a shorter presentation for an upcoming professional meeting.


© 2013 Gail Tycer •



Tip of the Week: Professionalism vs. Availability

Remember the brick?Brick Cell Phone

Perhaps not. “The brick” was a term used to describe early portable phones. Not so much because they looked like a brick – most of them were somewhat larger – but because they weighed at least as much.

The brick was so large, in fact, it was frequently left behind in the car. Hence no interrupted meetings, movies, or client meals.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was referred to a “Dear Amy” column, where Dear Amy was asked by “puzzled” for a polite way to ask guests to “put away their electronic toys and pay attention to the live people in the room.” Next came the movie screen admonishment to silence our cell phones to avoid distracting other theatergoers, or risk ejection from the theater.

This aspect of professionalism is rarely discussed in the business situation, but it should be: What is appropriate “communication” in this age of instant electronics? Should you text, or surf the web when you’re with others? Or is it O.K. to take a non-related call in the middle of a meeting, or a conversation with a customer or client?

“I’m waiting for an important call,” translates to “You’re not as important as the call I’m expecting.” So what do you do when you are expecting a critical call? One option is to put your phone on vibrate, and let voicemail handle it. If it is a true emergency, excuse yourself very briefly, with as little disruption to the meeting as possible.

Better yet, when you are expecting a call, set a time with the caller when you will be available to take the call, thus eliminating the double frustration both of the caller for not being answered, or of the client or meeting for being disturbed.

And what does all of this have to do with professionalism in the workplace? What is the trade-off between being immediately available to someone outside your meeting or conversation on the one hand, or giving 100% to the occasion at hand by “being there,” wherever you are, live. Does your partial, multi-tasking attention present you more favorably, more professionally than giving this client, this customer, this activity your entire attention? Do you become more credible by splitting your attention among them all?

Does the point really become wherever you are, be there?

A frequently-quoted Stanford University study debunks the hopeful myth of multi-tasking by demonstrating that human beings are physically incapable of giving 100% to two or more different activities simultaneously. So how do you build your credibility and enhance your professionalism on the job? Give 100% to each activity, one at a time. In short, wherever you are, be there!

 On the other hand, what you do on your own time should reasonably be left to you and your friends – as long as it does not reflect negatively on your company, organization, or employer. Whether it is talking on your cell phone to a friend while shopping at the mall, or walking into a city parks pool while talking on your cell phone, as one unfortunate was reported to have done, that’s up to you.

What you do in the business situation is something else entirely. Client, customer, boss, or co-worker reactions might range from “oh well,” to mild annoyance, to downright full-blown irritation. None of them exactly what you’re looking for to build careers, credibility, or professionalism.

© 2013 Gail Tycer •


Tip of the Week: Getting a Job; Getting Ahead – The Communication Secrets You Need to Know

Here’s hoping you had a fine holiday, and are refreshed, renewed, and ready to dig in on the job. As we think about our families and friends, and about all of our many blessings, it’s good to be thankful that we can work. And thankful for that work – paid, or unpaid, or part of what we do every day.

Today we are looking at tough times. Whether you are a seasoned employee or just out of school and looking for your first “real job,” the present employment statistics and opportunities can seem impossibly daunting. Really depressing.

Tough times require tough measures – new skills, better skills for a more valuable you! So where do you start?

1. First, you need to understand what business writing really is.

When I ask my workshop participants “What is business writing?” the answers vary widely. The answer is simple and straightforward: Business writing is a tool.

Business writing is as much a tool as a shovel, a rake, or a hammer. Business writing is very different from writing a term paper; different from writing a poem, a short story, a novel, or journaling. Business writing builds from the good writing skills you learned in school, and takes the next step.

Business writing is a tool – a way to get the job done. So select an appropriate way to use that tool to get the job done.

2. Next, you need to understand what that job is: What is it each piece of business writing must accomplish? Most organizations must be results-oriented most of the time to stay in business! It’s important for you to understand this. Many business writers do not understand this, nor write this way, and may not get the results you will be able to.

Why are you writing this piece? When you are successful, what will happen? How will you know you have succeeded?

3.      Third, ask yourself what tone will be appropriate to use with this particular reader. What tone, and what style is appropriate in your industry? In your organization?

Tone  is the relationship the writer sets up with the reader. How would you describe the appropriate relationship you want to establish? You could use words to describe that relationship like “professional,” “helpful,” “technical,” “cooperative,” and so on. What is your organizational culture? Is the resulting tone appropriate for your purpose? Will it get the results you need? What is the environment in which your writing will be working?

And what style? Will your academic writing style fit in with your organization? Strictly academic writing must be totally objective, and generally uses scholarly words and phrases. Purely academic, or scholarly writing is meant to be “scholars writing for scholars,” and will not, generally, communicate well with the average adult reader, who frequently is not in the habit of curling up with a fascinating dissertation after dinner.

There are appropriate styles for most professions and disciplines that probably will not communicate with, explain, or help the information to be well understood by the average adult reader either, but are expected by readers within the profession or discipline where they are appropriate.

To be understood by the average adult reader – if that is your intended reader – you will probably want to use simpler, more comfortable words and phrases – not “vocabulary exercise words.”

Much of the time you will find, unlike when you are using the strictly academic style, that your writing needs to motivate, convince, or persuade your reader to take (or not to take) an action, or to change (or hold on to) a belief or a practice. Understanding the reader, the environment your writing must work in, and the job it must do will guide you in selecting the appropriate style.

Let me just say that in all the years I’ve been working with chief executives in business and in government, I’ve never had one ask me to teach their staffs to “write up” – to write more formally – to them. A comfortable, easy-to-read-and-grasp-quickly style is what they ask for. After all, they want to eat dinner with their families – and maybe watch some football too!

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Recommend a Gail Tycer workshop for your workplace, or suggest one of Gail’s shorter presentations for an upcoming meeting or conference

© 2013 Gail Tycer •


Even Before You Think About Writing…

If I could give you an easy way to be more productive in your working life, would it be worth a try?

Recently-published research from Stanford University (Ophir, Wagner and Nass) indicates that people who identified themselves as high multitaskers did not do as well at filtering irrelevant information, organizing memories, or switching from one thing to another as low multitaskers did.

UCLA researcher Russell Poldrack found that students focused on learning a specific task out-performed those multitaskers who were distracted.  Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) testing further indicated that different brain systems were involved for each group, and that “there was a cost to switching back and forth” for the actively multitasking group involved in learning new information while distracted.  University of Michigan researcher David E. Meyer notes that switching the brain from one task to another can be incredibly time consuming.

From the historical point of view as far back as the 1890s, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education article, researchers found that while some are better able to concentrate while distracted than others, “Beyond a fairly low level of multitasking, everyone’s performance breaks down.”

Paradoxically, while most of the plethora of current research strongly concludes that, for a variety of reasons, multitaskers do not perform as well as their more focused counterparts, “Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities,” Stanford’s Nass said.  Yet, “they’re suckers for irrelevancy,” and “Everything distracts them.”

“They’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” Stanford’s Wagner continued, and “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

What does this mean in the business situation?  Two things:  (1) It’s possible that by focusing; and (2) by cutting distraction around you, you could actually be more productive, while seemingly doing less.

At a practical level, a single focus, and lack of distraction may be very close to the impossible dream, given today’s rapid-fire, multitasking work environment.

Try dedicating your workspace only to focused work – saving personal email, face book, Twitter, and LinkedIn – for personal time and space at home.

If you are a home office worker, establish and observe definite work hours, and dedicate a definite space used only for work.

More free business writing tips from Gail Tycer are available here, and information about Gail’s Effective Email, and other business writing workshops is available here.

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© 2013 Gail Tycer •