Mis-using Word

I have co-authored quite a few papers and articles. I have also taught Microsoft Word to college classes. And so I can report with confidence that many, many academics, despite depending upon Word as a daily tool in their work, have no idea how to use it well.

Word is a style-base word processor. If you are using it without using styles, you are not using it properly. Don't take my word for it: Microsoft itself says using Word without styles is like washing your clothes without detergent.

A mid-sized Academic paper may have one or two hundred paragraphs in it. I have seen a co-author literally go to the beginning of each of one hundred or more paragraphs and place a tab at the beginning of each in order to indent the first line. ("Seen" because with "track changes" on, you see all the work your co-author did in the last revision of the document you are sharing.) The process must have taken 15 or 20 minutes. But in 15 or 20 seconds, the person could have modified the "Normal" style to include a first-line indent, and every paragraph would have been changed automatically. Furthermore, if an editor demanded the first-line indents be removed, they all could be taken back out in another 15 seconds.

Seeing someone use Word this way is like seeing someone who owns a car but thinks that it is a sort of giant wheeled luggage container, and so he drags it on a rope to the grocery store, fills it with groceries, and then drags it back home.


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