Functional Formatting in Microsoft Word

By Josh Feldman. When constructing any formal document in Microsoft Word, nothing sticks out more than a formatting mess. A well-constructed document is often overlooked for one simple reason – it blends in, it flows. While there are several tricks to make your document really wow the reader, a poorly formatted final copy is a sure-fire way to get noticed and for all the wrong reasons. Not to mention the difficulty of dealing with poor formatting throughout the document at every edit. These basic formatting instances are especially crucial when building an official, sanctioned document ultimately filed with the SEC. In this short post, you will learn several powerful tips and common mistakes to ensure your colleagues consider you a formatting mastermind.


Keeping it Togetherkeep w next

Let’s first start with a rhetorical question: Who here has put in countless hours creating a beautiful chart and corresponding narrative only to have them land on different pages? As we all know too well, when relevant items fall on different sheets within a document, the impact is significantly diminished. In situations like these, a simple “keep with next” can be implemented to ensure your content stays together. Similarly, “keep lines together” guarantees single lines within one paragraph are not separated. Both of these features can be found in the advanced Paragraph menu and are easy ways to ensure your information has the right effect on the reader.

Along a similar vein, sometimes content needs to be separate to remain effective. Adding page breaks can help to auto-separate content, producing a seamless way to ensure your document feels clean and uncluttered. By using CTRL + ENTER you can easily begin each new topic on its own page.

Consistency is Key

format symbolWhen pulling your document together from a variety of different sources, it’s only a matter of time before the spacing gets a bit out of whack.  Whether it’s the spacing between lines or paragraphs or different levels of indentation or alignment, make sure everything looks clean and neat before giving your document the stamp of approval. Using the Paragraph logo provides the ability to see where you may have entered an extra space character.  Without applying these formatting symbols, it would be impossible to tell where you may have any discrepancies. Click that button again to hide those symbols when finished (or use the shortcut CTRL + *).

Keys to Clean Collaboration

Once you have passed your document along for review, you’ll want to see who is making edits – be sure to apply Track Changes. Rather than a dialog back and forth about where the changes and edits were made, Word marks up any changes with a line near the margin, drawing your attention directly to that section. You can also enter comments to specific parts of the document to consolidate thoughts in one conversation.  The only way to remove tracked changes is to accept or reject them, be sure to go through your changes one-by-one to effectively produce a final copy all departments are proud to endorse.

Trust Center OptionsWhile your document is all marked up, you’ll want to make sure you do not send or print that file with all the changes still viewable. Under the Trust Center Options menu, check the box to warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains changes or comments. Then relax – your document is only published or shared once you have confirmed the necessary edits are in place.


Overhaul Your Overview

There are sections of a document that should stand out and those that should not. The table of contents is often considered to fall in the latter category, but that doesn’t mean you should pay any less attention to the formatting. A table of contents can be created automatically, but there is also a manual option to add your own professional touch and create enhanced flexibility as you continue to compile your document.

Use hyperlinks to create a quick access link in your document. Then take a look at bookmarks, which work with hyperlinks to seamlessly jump to those sections. Another trick is to use quick parts to insert a preformatted piece of text or field. And finally tab leaders can add some style to your page numbers. As an advanced Microsoft user, manually creating these tables will give control back to the creator. You choose where each link sends the reader and format it the way your organization prefers.



Take yourself back to the fundamentals. Try using a few of the basics in a slick new way and you may be surprised. Whether you use the Keep With tools to lock your content together, simple formatting and indentation to stay consistent, Track Changes to collaborate with your reviewers or a killer table of contents, Microsoft Word is a tool full of advanced capabilities. Be sure to read our post Shortcuts that Expedite Your Financial Disclosures to learn how to save your valuable time and make your reporting process easier. Not only will you learn a thing or two, but creating additional documents will be a breeze.

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