5 Essential Microsoft Word Tips for Creative Writers

Microsoft Word isn’t just for boring work stuff. Here are some tips that will help keep your pen moving along when inspiration strikes.

Most of the Microsoft Word tutorials and getting started guides are geared toward office productivity. Indeed, many of Word’s features make the most sense in business settings. Believe it or not, Microsoft Word works equally as well for creative writing.  If you’ve avoided being indoctrinated into the world of Microsoft Office through on-the-job training, you’ll want to get caught up to speed with the basics while skipping some of the more business-related tips and tricks. These five tips for creative writers will help you get your feet wet and your fingers typing.

1. Add Fictional Words and Places to Your Dictionary

Can you imagine what it would be like to write a fantasy novel like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings? These works of fiction have unique names, places, and even completely made up languages. How is it possible to write stories of this nature without having them autocorrected or constantly dinged by “spelling errors?” Well by adding them to your dictionary of course!

As an example, I was writing a story where one of the characters had the name “Sylver,” and of course, Microsoft Word kept trying to change it to the color “silver” which after just a few paragraphs drove me absolutely nuts. Finally, I realized I can just add the word to the dictionary and Word will leave it as is.

To do this you just have to right click on the word and click on Add to Dictionary.

2. Autosave Your Work

As a writer, you want to make sure you have backups for your backups. The worst thing that can happen is losing complete chapters you’ve written because you didn’t have your document autosaving. Luckily with Word, it’s simple. Before you begin typing, go to File> Options> Save and check where it says Save AutoRecover information every X Minutes. This way your work is safe, but to be sure you might want to back up the file in a couple more locations. Consider OneDrive or Dropbox.

3. Organize Your Ideas and Research with Word & OneNote

In my experience, OneNote is a better tool when you’re researching and outlining your novels, but once you’re writing in Word, you can still head straight to the OneNote research and outlines you previously created. Go to the Review Tab and click on Linked Notes OneNote. Now simply find the notebook or section you need from OneNote and you can work side by side without having to exit Word.

This is a really useful way to move your initial ideas into your draft. OneNote allows you to add pictures to your notes, giving you the freedom to write wonderful descriptions of locations or characters for your story.

Then when working in OneNote you can attach your Microsoft Word drafts to your notebook to keep your entire story from start to finish all in one place. Just go to Insert and File Attachment and add the Word document.


4. Use Comments for Editing or Notes to Yourself

Whether you’re working with an editor or just simply doing a round of edits yourself, the comments feature is a great tool to make notes as you read through your stories. First drafts are especially rough around the edges and reading through and leaving comments will help you get to the next stage of the writing process. You can find the New Comment option on the Review tab.

5. Distraction Free Writing

One of the bigger selling points of the word processors aimed at authors is the distraction free writing feature. Meaning the document will take up the entire screen. You won’t see tabs or anything else unless you hit ESC. Something similar is possible in Microsoft word and you simply press Ctrl+F1 and the Ribbon will disappear giving word a much cleaner look. When you need to see the options in the ribbon once again, just press Ctrl+F1 once more. In Word for Mac, there’s a focus mode you can use.

Many people will try to tell you that you have to spend money on a different processor to write a novel, but truthfully Microsoft Word is still a great tool for authors, and you can write great stories without having a fancy program.

Do you use Microsoft Word for creative writing? Share your best tips in the comments below.

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  1. sludgehound

    March 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Thank. Way back in day there was Script Writer for film/play outlines that had the specific extra bits they require. Not sure if still around. Do use Word just for free balling ideas outside of that kind of formal means.

  2. J Keith Howie

    March 12, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I use it all the time. I edit kind size the piece before copying it into my WordPress Blog

  3. Ron MVP

    March 12, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I don’t see the advantage of keeping notes in OneNote. I always just kept my working notes in Word. I do use a specific style that makes it easy to identify working notes vs real body text (I make it a yellow background).

    The big thing is I start using heading styles right from the start. I use the heading styles to generate my outline. To go with that I use shortcut keys to switch to outline view and back to Web view (my normal working view).

    I also have the Document Map / Navigation Pane turned on all the time.

    Both the document map and outline view allow you to drag headings around to re-organize the content of the document.

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