February 13, 2011
Brandon S. Ellison, MBA, PHR
Moving along with this month’s topic, I want to stress that this blog is by no means supposed to be about technology tutorials. After this month, I want to get to more HR and Recruiting related topics, but I feel that these are the most basic tools of every professional. If you work with these programs on a daily basis, it will benefit you to have a working understanding of their capabilities. Throughout my career, I’ve used my knowledge and understanding of these programs to help position myself as a value-added resource to my organization. Demonstrating proficiency with the basic tools of business will help you develop faster as a professional and establish your inherent value within your place of business.
So this week I wanted to talk about Microsoft Word. Word is a powerful program that enables you to create professional documents and display data. You may be thinking, I already know Microsoft Word, why should I read this? But the truth is, most people don’t use Word to its full potential. I want to talk about some of the lesser known capabilities of Word and how you can use them to improve the documents you are creating. Here are some tips to help you master Word:
1. Understand the basics
As with any advice I give this month, it is important that you understand the basics of the program before we get into the more advanced functions. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to use Word on a daily basis, it’s time to learn what the program can do.
2. How Word is set up
Depending on which version of Word you’re using, the application’s functions are organized and categorized in one of two ways. Older versions of Word use a ‘toolbar’ method while newer versions have adapted the ‘taskbar’ method. Personally, I prefer the ‘taskbar’ method, but many times we don’t get to choose which version we are using (i.e. your business computer). The differences between the two setups can seem small, but they come from two very different User Interface (UI) philosophies:
3. Keyboard shortcuts make your life easier
I think the title here pretty much says it all. If you’re not using keyboard shortcuts in Word, chances are you’re wasting your time. Shortcuts replace valuable time spent rooting around the toolbar/taskbar for the appropriate action. Check out this complete list of keyboard shortcuts. Here are some of the most common/useful ones that I use on a daily basis:
|Bold||CTRL+B or CTRL+SHIFT+B|
|Copy||CTRL+C or CTRL+INSERT|
|Font||CTRL+D or CTRL+SHIFT+F|
|Italic||CTRL+I or CTRL+SHIFT+I|
|Open||CTRL+O or CTRL+F12 or ALT+CTRL+F2|
|Page Down||PAGE DOWN|
|Page Up||PAGE UP|
|Paste||CTRL+V or SHIFT+INSERT|
|Redo||CTRL+Y or F4 or ALT+ENTER|
|Save||CTRL+S or SHIFT+F12 or ALT+SHIFT+F2|
|Select All||CTRL+A or CTRL+CLEAR (NUM 5) or CTRL+NUM 5|
|Underline||CTRL+U or CTRL+SHIFT+U|
|Undo||CTRL+Z or ALT+BACKSPACE|
These shortcuts represent some of the most common functions a business professional performs in Word. If at the very least, you spend the time to master these, you will save yourself a lot of time.
4. Useful tools
Microsoft Word is full of useful tools that can aide you in creating professional documents. Here are some of my favorites:
This is one of Word’s most useful tools, and my personal favorite. Look for the paintbrush icon. Essentially, what format painter allows you to do is to copy the properties of a certain section of text and apply those same properties to another section. It’s very useful when trying to create a uniform and organized document. Format painter saves you a ton of time when it comes to setting paragraph indents and padding below and above lines. I used to work on a lot of resumes, taking an original candidate document and transferring it into our company’s format, and format painter was my best friend. Here’s a quick resource that explains in more detail how to use this tool.
This is something I discovered while I was studying for my MBA. I love this tool. If you’re using version 2007 or later, you should be able to use it, though you need to enable it first. Essentially, what this tool does is scans your document and provides you with a readability score based on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. The grading scale is 0-12. In addition to this, you also receive a score based on the reading ease of your document (0-100%). This is a really great tool for both students and professionals.
If you’re ever given a document to review/edit, you may want to consider enabling the “track changes” function. The name pretty much says it all- any change that you make to the document will be recorded for display and review. This is helpful when you are collaborating with another person or team because it allows that person to see changes made to the project.
The research pane is a nice feature that allows you to search the web from inside word to find information to include in your document. eHow.com explains how to use this tool in more detail.
5. Integrating Word with other Office programs
Microsoft Office is an entire suite of programs that are designed to work together for all you business needs. Each program offers unique integration capabilities with its counterparts. For example, say you’re typing up a Word document that you will need to email to your boss. Instead of saving the file to a folder, closing Word, opening Outlook and manually attaching the Word document to your email, Word offers the ability to directly attach your document to a new mail message from within. In older versions like 2003, you can find this function under File -> Send to -> Mail Recipient. In newer versions, there is a small arrow at the top of the taskbar that allows you to add such an option to the menu (see below). This is a valuable shortcut that allows you to bypass time searching through hard drives and folders to find files to manually attach. It’s a good idea to explore Word to see more ways in which you can integrate with other Office programs.
6. Displaying information with tables
Tables are a great way to organize information within a document to avoid formatting headaches. You can even remove the cell borders to display this information seamlessly within the document. Tables can even allow you to display columned information without having to deal with adding columns or page breaks. Tables help with justification issues too. The best part about tables is that they allow you to make better use of the document’s horizontal real estate. One example I can think of, is displaying technical criteria in a resume. A ghosted table works great for this purpose. Below are a few examples of how tables can make a document cleaner and more organized:
Instead of this:
7. Adding images and watermarks
In some cases, images or watermarks can be an excellent supplement to your Word document. Word offers a variety of options for placing these images into your document and how you can organize the content around them. Check out this tutorial on adding images to your word documents.
Watermarks are useful for many different business purposes. Sometimes it may be necessary to add a “confidential” watermark to your documents containing sensitive information and details. Watermarks can be text-based or even pictures. Pictures can add a dimension of creativity and class to certain documents where appropriate.
Typography is something that is extremely important when considering any document. I won’t be able to get into an extended discussion here about some of the finer points, but know that there is a time and a place for using different fonts. Using inappropriate fonts for business purposes is not only unprofessional, but in many cases can be distracting from the intended message. I found this page that talks about business typography, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what type of fonts you are using and if those fonts are appropriate for your purposes.
9. Think document design
Document design is something that I’ve been talking about for years now. This is especially applicable to documents that are going to be juxtaposed and critiqued. The main point is this, how your document looks is important. A poorly designed document can be distracting and ineffective. My advice in this area is as follows: after you’ve created the content for your document, start thinking about how you are displaying that content. Take a step back and try to look at the document as a whole. Does the content make good use of the space provided? Does the document cover both horizontal and vertical space? Are there distracting breaks and gaps in the content?
10. Using/creating templates
Microsoft Word offers a variety of different templates that allow you to create many different types of documents. From fax cover sheets, to flyers, to memos, there are numerous options at your disposal. If you find yourself creating the same document over and over again, you may want to consider creating your own template.
So that’s it for this week! Check back next week for a discussion on Outlook. It’s important to look at Microsoft Office as a set of tools, if you become a skilled user with these tools, your documents will become more professional and of a higher quality.