I continue my look at tools with another mention of Microsoft Word. I’m not going to suggest that Word replaces the need for any of the advanced tools I talked about in my recent comparison post, but it still has its place. There is no harm in using Word to cure some of the more basic problems in a document before moving on to a more sophisticated tool or sending to an editor. Word has bad press though – if you turn on grammar checking most people are flooded with wiggly green lines. This is compounded if you turn on the style checker as well.
A few minutes tweaking can calm this down a bit and turn a much maligned feature into something useful. I was inspired to write this by a few similar posts such as Wayne Schiess’s on LegalWriting.net called Customize Word’s Grammar Checker. I like Wayne’s post for its direct approach.
What can Word actually do?
Microsoft’s own help page is here: Select grammar and writing style options. Some of this is useful while some is rather opaque. The key point I want to make is this:
Turn the feature on, use it for a bit then turn off the bits that don’t work for you. Then use a better tool nearer the end of the production of a piece of writing
I am part-way through this exercise and while painful it is useful. My earlier life has made me very prone to passive writing (such as this sentence) and Word delights in pointing this out.
The various screens are as follows along with my own views – feel free to challenge or ignore!
First up, this picture shows you where the option is; make sure you turn on grammar and style:
The first option is the Oxford comma (afaik) which I don’t use. Next is a test for punctuation within quotes and finally spaces between sentences. I have a lot of arguments at work on this point. The answer is one space after a full-stop. Anything else is a relic of very old typewriters.
Now the list of Grammar options in full:
As you will see I am using them all for now though Fragments has almost run its course. I expect to switch off a couple of others as well.
The list of Style options is too long for one snapshot:
I tend to write semi-formally so have turned off Contractions (I like to use don’t rather than do not, for example) and also the use of And, But and Hopefully doesn’t annoy me. I expect to turn off more of these as I figure them out.
I’d like to know what other options people do or don’t use – please get in touch!