Microsoft Word has some annoying features that, while intended to be helpful, simply get in the way instead. Don’t let your legal writing get blindsided by these features—turn them off.1

AutoFormat As You Type

As you’re typing in Word, certain formatting decisions get made for you. For example, if you type “1st”, the “st” will get superscripted as soon as you hit the space bar.

That’s Word’s AutoFormat As You Type option. In some instances (like the “1st” example), this can prove handy. In others, however, it’s just disastrous. Type a series of dashes and hit the Enter key and you’ll see what I mean.

You can set up AutoFormat As You Type to invoke less often. Go to the File tab, click Options, then in the Proofing section click AutoCorrect Options. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, you’ll see this:

Word-2016-autoformat-as-you-type-recommended

These are my recommended settings, but it’s ultimately about what works in your context. For example, if you copy text out of Word to paste into a timekeeping app, you’ll want to turn off the “smart quotes”, since those characters don’t always translate well to plain text. If that’s not an issue for you, and you like the formatted quotes, leave it checked.

AutoCorrect

AutoCorrect is the feature that automatically changes “teh” to “the”, and this is where it stores its dictionary of commonly misspelled words. Some entries, however, can cause problems. For example, if your documents frequently use numbering schemes starting with “(a)”, you’ve probably noticed when you type “(c)” it turns into a copyright symbol. (If you get all the way down to “(r)” it will change it to the registered trademark symbol too.)

You can edit or delete any entry in this dictionary. Just scroll down to find the offender, click on it, and either hit the Delete button or edit it in the Replace field. For example, you could edit the prompt for the copyright symbol to “((c))” to get it out of your way when typing “(c)”.

Word-2016-auto-correct-pilcrow

You’ll also want to take a look at the checkboxes above and turn selected ones off.

Click OK to save your settings.

Paste Options Box

By default, anytime you paste text from one place to another in Word, a meant-to-be-helpful box appears just under the right corner of your pasted text:

Word-2016-paste-options-button-1If you don’t like the way the text has pasted (wrong font, etc.), you can use this box to do a quick fix:

Word-2016-paste-options-button-2

If you find this annoying because you already know how to paste text intelligently, you can turn this box off (again, this is within Options under the File tab):

Word-2016-turn-paste-options-button-off

Automatic Grammar Check

If you often find that Microsoft Word’s grammar checker marks sentences that aren’t actually grammatically wrong, you can disable it.

Microsoft Word checks grammar at two points: (1) as you type (by placing a red wavy line under grammatically-suspect text) and (2) when you open the spell checker on the Review tab. You can turn either or both levels off (again, within Options under the File tab):

Word-2016-check-grammar-as-you-type

Click OK at the bottom right to save your settings.

What Microsoft Word behaviors would you like to turn off? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows.