Technical Tips for Longer Writing Projects -->

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Technical Tips for Longer Writing Projects

No comments
I admit, I definitely have a love-hate relationship with MS Word; while there are so many options for making the word processing simpler and ensuring the finished document looks slick, there always seems to be some quirk or default in the system that makes me feel more like I’m wrestling with the document rather than revising it.

Once I started to dig into the various functions available in MS Word and got over some of my fear and anxiety about the software, my relationship with MS Word improved a lot. Now I recommend many of the functions I used to nervously avoid, and there are several options I could not do without when working with longer documents.

Tech Tips for Longer Writing Projects

Word Support
Remember, there are people out there whose job it is to help. Playing around with software or new functions you aren’t used to using can feel intimidating, and sometimes you don’t even know what you don’t know or what to ask. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the different MS Word resources available through the Academic Skills Center, and you will be surprised at what you could learn that will help you later on.

If you scan down the menu to the left of the page and review the resources available at some of those links, you may even recognize solutions to problems you have encountered before. (I did not even know what a dot leader was until I had to learn how to fix them.) Plus, you will have a better idea what Word can do and how you can use it to compose your manuscript.

The Academic Skills Center offers one-on-one support, and you can either make an appointment or send your questions to

Moving Swiftly yet Carefully in Longer Documents
Beyond the formatting tools are the specific editing functions in MS Word. While you are not required to use it in your own revision practice, all Walden students should be well-versed in how to use Track Changes and the different options for viewing those changes in your document. Your faculty (such as your chairperson and doctoral committee) will use these functions to give you feedback on your drafts, and if you do not know how to view their feedback or incorporate their changes, this can cause frustration on all sides.

I cannot overstate the usefulness of the editing functions of Find and Replace. You may want to use the Replace function less frequently (the “Replace all” option can lead to some confusing and ungrammatical results if you do not read over everything carefully first), but Find will be your friend every time.

Scrolling through a document can get tedious, not to mention hard on the eyes, and printing out your work and reviewing a hard copy will not guarantee you catch every instance of a word or phrase. The Find function (which you can access with the keyboard shortcut “Ctrl+F” on a PC or “Command+F” on a Mac) lets you navigate through your document with the greatest of ease and ensures you locate everything you are looking for (provided you spelled it correctly…).

You can use the Find function to update verb tenses, check for acronym or abbreviation use, and locate the first time you cite a specific source so you know when to use the abbreviation et al. Best of all, you can quickly confirm whether or not your citations have corresponding reference entries listed at the end of the document and whether you have only included reference entries for those sources you directly cited. (Trying to check for this without the Find function could take hours when you are dealing with something the size of a dissertation or doctoral study.)

The Limits of Software’s Magic
You still want to avoid relying too heavily on software options to generate your draft. Some students use citation management software, for example, to help keep track of their reference and citation information. None of these systems is perfect, unfortunately, and their adherence to APA can range from the merely imperfect to the terrible, so make sure you know APA well enough to proofread for errors, and try to avoid using a system that does not let you add your own changes easily.

Do not be afraid to experiment with technical options for revising and organizing your document. If you label files clearly and save often, there is nearly no mistake you cannot undo, so be brave. If, for example, you replace the wrong thing or delete something you meant to keep, you can always undo it and move on. The more practice you have working with the different technical options available to you, the more you can revise like a professional.

Lydia Lunning is a Dissertation Editor and the Writing Center's Coordinator for Capstone Services. She earned degrees from Oberlin College and the University of Minnesota, and served on the editorial staff of Cricket Magazine Group.

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time

No comments :

Post a Comment