Microsoft Word is probably the most used—and sometimes the most loathed—tool in a lawyer’s toolbox. It’s extremely powerful, but it can also be maddeningly difficult to get Word to do what you want it to do. That’s because Word isn’t really designed for lawyers; it is a general-purpose word processor for the general public. So if you learn to take advantage of Word’s powerful features, it will pay big dividends—and save you many headaches.
Mastering Microsoft Word
100% of the formatting problems you’ve experienced when drafting new documents can be completely avoided before they occur.
Fortunately, we can help! Here are our tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Word.
How to Get Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is bundled with Office 365, which also includes Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and more. You can’t get Word on its own, but an Office 365 subscription with Word is just $8.25/month, and you can always choose not to install the other apps. If you are willing to pay a premium for a traditional buy-it-once license, you can also buy Word as part of Microsoft Office Home and Business 2016.
As with all the core Office apps, you can also use Word Online from your browser.
Styles in Microsoft Word
Let’s face it: legal writing is already hard work. Tinkering with things like fonts to enhance legal document readability can be time-consuming. However, with the Microsoft Word Styles feature, consistent formatting becomes a whole lot easier and faster and can help enforce standards in your firm’s outgoing documents.1
What are Styles?
Using Microsoft Word Styles is a way to apply pre-set formatting definitions to blocks of text. For example, you can designate a style called “Heading 1” which formats all of your first-level headings in a particular font, boldface, single-spaced, and centered. That Heading 1 style, applied to all of your first-level headings in a brief or another document, gives you a one-step way to apply multiple format settings (font, font weight, justification, line spacing, etc.) for consistent formatting in your document.
Why You Really Should Use Styles (Hint: You Already Do)
Some users say they don’t use Styles. But, in fact, every single piece of text you touch in Microsoft Word has a Style applied to it. In fact, there are over 200 built-in Styles to control everything from headings to numbering to footnotes. Styles are the foundation upon which formatting, document organization and many features (Tables of Contents, etc.) are built.
The beauty of using Styles rather than manual text formatting is being able to change the formatting throughout the document in a couple of steps. Otherwise, you’re stuck going through the entire document looking for each instance of a particular text type. For instance, if you decide to change your first-level heading font from Times New Roman to Book Antiqua, you only need to modify the Style, and all the headings in your document will change automatically.
And because Microsoft designed Styles to mimic web formatting, understanding how the Styles relate to one another is critical. For example, if you change the font for the Normal Style, you’ll see that same change immediately reflected in other Styles such as Footnote Text. Why? Styles are designed to cascade from one another; in other words, many of the formatting settings in one Style may be inherited from a “parent” Style. Normal is a common “parent” Style for many other Styles, so making changes there can have ripple effects all over the document. Understanding cascading Styles lets you make high-leverage changes in one place rather than going all over your document applying direct formatting.
Using Built-In Microsoft Word Styles
Microsoft Word has had the Styles feature for several versions, and the Ribbon-based versions (Office 2007 and up) kick it up a notch by offering multiple sets of standard Styles. Styles are grouped into Style Sets, and many of the Styles within the current set are available in the Quick Styles Gallery on the Home tab:
Click on the down arrow just to the left of Change Styles (the arrow that has a small line above it) to see the full list of Quick Styles:
The default Style set often features blue headings and fonts not particularly appropriate for legal documents. There are more choices over on the Design tab:
Either choose another Style set from the gallery or click on the Colors and/or Fonts drop-downs to the right to make the appropriate adjustments to the current Style set. Save your settings for your future documents by clicking the Set as Default button.
How to Apply a Style to Text
To apply an existing Style (such as one of the above) to your text, select the text with your mouse. Once your text is selected, click on the Style name in the Quick Styles Gallery on the Home tab. Your text will be re-formatted in the new Style.
To see a preview of how a particular Style will reformat your text, simply hover your mouse pointer over that Style and pause a moment—your text will briefly change to the new settings. It will revert to its previous formatting as soon as you move your mouse pointer away
Here’s another way you can choose Styles to apply to your text: click Apply Styles in the full Style set view shown above and get a complete list of Styles to apply (not all Styles are listed in the Quick Styles gallery):
Clicking on that button circled in red above will pop up a Styles pane to the right that you can also use to manipulate Styles:
Modifying an Existing Style
If you would like to apply a Style to your text but want a minor change, such as making the type a bit larger, right-click on top of that Quick Style and select Modify:
You’ll be taken to the Modify Style dialog box, where you can adjust the formatting in a variety of ways. To change the font as in our example, just click the font drop-down and scroll down until you find the font you want.
The easiest way to change an existing Style? Find some text in your document that’s already formatted the way you like, select the text with mouse or keyboard, then right-click the Style as previous. As you can see above, the first choice in the right-click menu is Update [Style] to match selection. Click that, and the selected Style will be updated with all of that text’s settings—font, justification, line spacing, etc.
Figuring Out What Style is Currently Applied So You Can Change It
If the text your cursor is sitting in has one of the Quick Styles applied to it, it’ll be selected in the Styles Gallery:
However, not every Style is a Quick Style (which is what makes it visible in the Styles Gallery). To determine which Style is applied to your current text, click the small launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Styles area of the Home tab (or use Alt-Ctrl-Shift-S) to open the Styles pane:
Again, it may be obvious from the Styles pane which Style is applied, and you can modify that Style by clicking on the arrow on the right-hand end and choosing Modify from the menu. To get a fuller list of available Styles, click Options at the bottom and change the setting in Select styles to show:
The Style Inspector (the middle button at the bottom of the Styles pane with the magnifying glass icon) tells you not only which Style is applied, but whether any direct formatting has been added:
Under Paragraph formatting and Text level formatting, you’ll see which Style has been applied plus any direct formatting that’s been added. The eraser icons on the right let you reset the selected text to the defaults.
Creating a New Style
What if you want to add a Style to the set you’re using? You can format some text the way you want it, then use that text as the basis for a new Style.
For example, you can create a “Block Quote” Style where paragraphs are single-spaced and indented 0.5″ on left and right. Format the block quote the way you want it, triple-click it with your mouse to select the entire paragraph, and get the contextual menu:
When you click Create Style in the contextual menu, you get the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box. That will allow you to name your new Style and modify it some more if you like (see “Modify an Existing Style” above), then save it.
Sharing Your Styles with Others
Part of the usefulness of Styles is their ability to standardize text formatting. If you’ve developed some Styles you want to use firm-wide (or just within your practice group), you’ve got some hurdles to clear.
First, Microsoft is pretty adamant: you cannot share the Normal.dotm template among multiple users. But you can copy any Styles you’ve stored in your Normal.dotm template to other templates, then share those templates with your workgroup. Open up documents based on the two different templates (Normal and whatever template you want to copy a Style to). Back on the Styles pane, click the Manage Styles button on the bottom right to go to the Manage Styles dialog box. Click Import/Export at the bottom left to go to the Styles Organizer.
Once you’ve copied your new Styles to special templates, you can designate a central network folder for those templates and point everyone’s Workgroup Templates setting to that folder.
To modify that setting on an individual PC, click the File tab and choose Options. Under Advanced, scroll down to the General section and click File Locations:
From here, you’ll be asked to designate a network drive/folder as the Workgroup templates folder:
If you have a large workgroup to share templates with, your IT support person will have a more sophisticated method of repointing everyone to a workgroup templates folder via the Windows registry.
Numbering in Microsoft Word
Word’s Auto-Numbering features are powerful and very useful for attorneys. However, they are not very intuitive. Here’s how to master paragraph numbering and more.
The way Word has constructed paragraph numbering—a twisted combination of fields and styles—makes it difficult to customize numbering to your preferences and easy to screw up somewhere along the way. If you are going to use Word’s native paragraph numbering, you will want to be armed with basic knowledge and some snafu-busting techniques.2
Starting an auto-numbered paragraph is deceptively simple. See those buttons on the top row of the Paragraph section of the Home tab? The left-most one is for bullets; the next two to its right are for numbering and multi-level numbering, respectively. Simply click the button to toggle the feature on, or click on the drop-down arrow on each button to select a specific style. If you don’t like any of the delivered choices, you can click Define New to set your own.
If you use multi-level numbering, use the Increase/Decrease Indent buttons on the Home tab (just to the right of the numbering buttons in the Paragraph section) to change the numbering level of a particular paragraph. The numbering of subsequent paragraphs will self-adjust.
The first thing you will notice is the paragraph will not be indented the way you want. Microsoft has its own ideas about how your paragraphs should look, but you can override them. The quickest way is to right-click on the paragraph number you just created and choose Adjust List Indents from the menu that pops up.
If you are using the basic one-level paragraph numbering, you will get a small dialog box in which to make your adjustments:
Number position is what it sounds like: how far from the left margin the number should be placed. Text indent is how far from the left margin you’d like your paragraph’s second and subsequent lines to wrap. Most people choose Tab character for the follow number with value, although you can also choose Space or Nothing.
If you are using multi-level numbering, the Adjust List Indents dialog box is more complex:
The values for Number position (here called Aligned at), Text indent and Follow number with are in the Position section at the bottom. With multi-level numbering, you also have easy access to settings that control the type of numbering at each level, the characters before and after each level’s numbers (period versus parenthesis), and the list number style (1, a, I, etc.).
Restarting/Resetting Paragraph Numbering Sequences
You can control whether your next paragraph number continues the current sequence or starts again at 1 within that same right-click menu. If one of your numbers gets out of sequence, simply right-click and choose Continue Numbering. If you want to force the number back to the beginning (say, you’re switching from interrogatories to requests for production), choose Set Numbering Value (which will also give you the option of continuing the previous list).
Adding Space Between Paragraphs
With the numbered paragraphs shown above, there is no extra spacing between the paragraphs. That’s easy to fix. Go ahead and type out at least part of your first numbered paragraph, then go to the Page Layout tab and adjust the value of Spacing After in the Paragraph section. Still no extra space? There’s one more setting to check. Click the launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner to go to the Paragraph dialog box, uncheck the box next to “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style.” Click OK. That paragraph and all the remaining numbered ones will have more breathing room.
Placing an Unnumbered Paragraph in the Middle
You will occasionally want to place an unnumbered paragraph in the middle of a sequence, but the moment you hit Enter, another paragraph number pops up. To fix this, toggle paragraph numbering off by pressing the paragraph numbering button you used for the previous paragraph. (If you use the button’s drop-down, choose None as the numbering scheme.) Unfortunately, the paragraph settings won’t revert to Normal here; it’ll usually have the paragraph indented 0.25. Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+Q to strip paragraph settings out, then revise the formatting as you wish.
When you are ready to restart numbering, you can use the technique above, or you can place your cursor inside a numbered paragraph above, click the Format Painter (the paintbrush icon on the Home tab under Clipboard), then click on the line where you want to restart numbering. Using Format Painter this way solves several paragraph numbering problems (the number sequence, indents, and inter-paragraph spacing) simultaneously.
Beyond Paragraph Numbering
Numbering can go beyond paragraphs and can include numbers other than plain Arabic numerals.3
For example, you might like to auto-number like this:
If you frequently include items like these in your legal writing, you’ll want to construct these and keep them in your Quick Parts so you can insert them with two clicks.
The heading here could be anything: affirmative defenses in an answer, articles in a contract, etc. It doesn’t matter; the technique is the same with only slight variations. The result is that you’ll have a heading saved in your Quick Parts that will be numbered correctly, no matter how many items you add or delete. This makes this technique particularly useful in building templates for common documents; because it’s always easier to delete than add, they’ll re-number themselves after editing.
Two Word Settings to Check
When using fields like these in documents, there are two settings you’ll want to check (and re-set if necessary). Go to the File tab and click on Options.
The first setting, under Display on the left, instructs Word to always update any field values before printing a document. The second, under Advanced, will always display fields on the screen with shading so you can always see, at a glance, which items are just text and which are fields.
Auto-Numbering Affirmative Defenses
For our example, let’s do headers for affirmative defenses that say “First Affirmative Defense”, “Second Affirmative Defense”, etc. Put your cursor where you want your first heading to go, then go to the Insert tab, click on Quick Parts, then click on Field:
On the Field dialog box, you want to select the Seq field:
We’re going to name this “affdef,” but actually you could name it anything you like. Once you’ve done that, click on Options to define the field:
There are three settings we need to embed in this field. The first is to tell it what kind of numbering we want to do (in this case, “First, Second, Third”), what case we want to use (upper case, title case, etc.), and a switch to tell Microsoft Word to increment the numbers. Click each of these settings as shown below, being sure to click Add to Field after each one:
So what you have now is a Seq field that has an ordinal number in uppercase letters that increments.
And it looks something like this:
Don’t worry, that shading behind the word “first” won’t print. That’s just there to show you that it’s a field and not just text. Now you can type the remainder of the phrase and format it however you like (bold, centered, new font, etc.):
At this point, you can save this to your Quick Parts so you don’t have to go through the whole “inserting the field” sequence over and over again.
One caveat: you may occasionally notice that when you insert several of these in a row (easy to do when you click on Quick Parts and find where you’ve saved it), the automatic numbering doesn’t seem to work:
Not to worry. Click CTRL-A (to select all text), then click F9 to update all the fields.
Microsoft Word will update those fields anyway the next time you print or save the document, but you may want to force update the fields just to set your mind at ease.
Microsoft Word Track Changes
The days of circulating a paper copy for review are pretty much over. Even senior partners are starting to prefer to review drafts in electronic form. So it pays to learn how to work Microsoft Word Track Changes to its full potential. Here are several ways to work Track Changes like an expert.
Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows. We are in the process of updating this guide to provide instructions for Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows.
Know When Track Changes is On
It actually is possible for Track Changes to be on (and recording every change you make) without you being aware of it.
Your first line of defense is your Status Bar. Right-click on it and turn the Track Changes monitor on. (As a bonus, this will also allow you to turn Track Changes on or off with one mouse click.) Microsoft Word can also alert you to the presence of tracked changes whenever you print or save the document. You’ll want to be sure this has not been disabled in your Word installation:
- Open Word | click on File tab | click on Options on the left-hand side.
- Click on Trust Center | Trust Center Settings | Privacy Options.
- Check the box “Warn before printing, saving or sending a file that contains tracked changes or comments.”
- Check the box “Make hidden markup visible when opening or saving.”
Check your Initials
Click on the File tab. You’ll see a section called “Personalize your copy of Microsoft Office” in which your full name and initials should appear. If not, fill those in. If you’re going to be distributing this document to others for review, ask them to check this item as well so Word can mark who has made what changes.
Set up your Status Bar
You always want to (a) know whether Track Changes is active and (b) be able to turn it on or off at will, without having to wander through the Ribbon to find it. Go to your Status Bar (at the very bottom), right-click on it, and make sure that there’s a check mark next to Track Changes. From now on, you’ll see an indicator at the bottom showing you whether Track Changes is turned on or off. One click will toggle it to the other setting.
Turn off Those Balloons
On the Review tab, click Track Changes, then click Change Tracking Options:
You should do three things:
- Make sure both the Insertions and Deletions section have By author in the Color field
- Uncheck the box next to track formatting in the Formatting section;
- Set Use Balloons in the Balloons section to Never
Compare Drafts to Ensure Everything’s Marked
If you’re in a situation in which you’re exchanging drafts and want to make sure you know every change that other editors have made, you can compare whatever you’ve received via email with the last draft you sent out. Open both documents in Word (close anything else you’re editing) and click the Compare button. You’ll get this dialog box.
Select the original document from the Original Document drop-down list. Select the edited document from the Revised Document drop-down list.
You can also choose to combine changes into a single document and get a more comprehensive report of what’s changed.
Restrict Others’ Edits
If you practice the kind of law that often requires sending around draft documents for others’ review, you’ve probably gotten more feedback that you actually asked for. When you only want your reviewers to submit changes to selected sections of your document, here’s how you can restrict others’ edits in Microsoft Word documents.4
In Microsoft Word, you can designate certain portions of your documents as editable while locking down other sections to prevent text changes.
To start, go to the File tab and click Protect Document, then choose Restrict Editing:
You can also go to the Review tab and click Restrict Editing.
Either method will pop up the Restrict Editing pane on the right side of your document:
The parts of this pane we’ll be using are 2. Editing restrictions and 3. Start enforcement.
To ensure reviewers can only edit certain sections, we’ll first block editing on the entire document:
Then we’ll select the text to be excepted from the editing restriction:
When you click Yes, Start Enforcing Protection, you’ll be prompted for a password:
Whatever you do, don’t lose or forget this password! Even Microsoft can’t help you retrieve it. Either write it down or make it something you’ll remember but others cannot guess.
Once the document’s locked, your reviewers will see this when they open it:
Save your document and send it on, knowing it’s secure from any unwanted input.
Restrict Others’ Formatting
Sometimes when you send out a draft, someone might send it back with unwanted formatting changes that he has to undo, a time-consuming task in long documents with intricate formatting. Fortunately, you can give reviewers free rein with Microsoft Word text but restrict others’ formatting.5
On the Review tab, click the Restrict Editing button. The Restrict Editing pane will pop up on the right-hand side of your document. The sections we’re going to work with are 1. Formatting instructions and 3. Start enforcement.
Check the box next to Limit formatting to a selection of styles and click the Settings link beneath it. You’ll get this dialog box to select which styles your reviewers may change.
If you want to stop others from adjusting headings, etc., you should choose the multiple Body Text and Normal styles. Also, it’s probably a good idea to check the boxes next to Block Theme or Scheme switching and Block Quick Style Set switching. Leave the check box next to Allow AutoFormat to override formatting restrictions unchecked.
Once you click OK, you’ll get this prompt:
Click No here, because clicking Yes will remove every restricted style from the document. That’s helpful when you’re limiting the styles contained in a document, but that’s not what we’re doing here.
Once you click No, your reviewers can only change formatting in text formatted with the styles you selected. To double-check your work, click on the small launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Styles area on the Home tab, then click the Manage Styles button at the bottom of the Styles pane that pops up. Restricted styles have a lock icon next to them:
Once you’re ready to lock your styles down, click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button at the bottom of the Restrict Editing pane. You’ll be prompted for a password:
Be sure this is a password you’ll remember. If the password’s lost, you’ll have no way to unlock these restrictions.
Your reviewers will see this:
Accept/Reject All Changes (#Accept)
If everybody’s edits are okay with you, the quickest way to remove the revision marks is to click on Accept and choose Accept All Changes in Document. If you need to review the changes one by one, use the Previous and Next buttons to navigate through the changes and click Accept or Reject as required.
Printing With or Without Markup
Part of the reason you might not know Track Changes is on is that Word will allow you to display and print the document in one of four ways by changing a setting on the Review tab:
- Final Showing Markup. Usually the default, this shows the edited document with all changes marked.
- Final. This shows the edited document (with all changes), but the changes are not marked. In other words, the document is displaying as though all changes have been accepted. Do be aware, however, that the markup is still saved; it’s just temporarily hidden.
- Original Showing Markup. This is a sort of mirror image of Final Showing Markup. The difference is that, in Final Showing Markup, the additions are underlined and deletions in balloons, while in Original Showing Markup, deletions are struck through and additions are in balloons. If you have “balloons” disabled by clicking on Balloons and choosing Show All Revisions Inline, then both views are the same (additions underlined and deletions struck through).
- Original. The original, unedited document is displayed.
Obviously, these views can come in handy if you want to see the document “before and after,” but if the Final view is chosen, you do not see any revision marks, so you may not have any clue they’re being tracked. To be safe, set it on Final Showing Markup and leave it there unless you need a different view for a specific purpose.
Hyperlinks in Microsoft Word
It is easy to add hyperlinks to legal documents, but it seems to intimidate lawyers, because they rarely do it. I get a lot of Word documents as draft posts for Lawyerist, and very few of them contain hyperlinks. And I’ve seen a lot of pleadings and memoranda in state and federal court litigation, but none of them (other than my own) have had hyperlinks.
Adding hyperlinks to Word documents is easy, it is useful, and it is something you really need to know how to do.
Inserting Hyperlinks in Word Documents
For starters, you will need the URL of the hyperlink you want to insert into your document. Navigate to the web page or document in your web browser, and then copy the URL from the address bar. (Just highlight the URL and select Edit > Copy from the browser or right-click menu, or use Ctrl +C in Windows or Cmd + C on a Mac.)
Now, in Word, select the text you want to link to something. In a statement of facts, for example, you might select your citation to the record, like so:
Now, go to Insert > Hyperlink, right-click and select Hyperlink, or just press Ctrl/Cmd + K. The resulting dialog looks slightly different in Word for Windows and Mac.
Windows (Word 2010)
The Insert Hyperlink dialog from Word 2010 (Windows) is a stupid, confusing dialog.
The Insert Hyperlink dialog on Windows versions of Word is confusing, but all you need to do is paste your URL (Edit > Paste or Ctrl + V) into the Address field.6
Then, click OK, and that’s it, you’re done!
Mac (Word 2011)
Just paste your URL (Edit > Paste or Cmd + V) into the Address field, and click OK. Done!
Converting Word Documents with Hyperlinks to PDF
There is a right way and a wrong way to convert Word documents to PDF. The right way results in smaller files and preserves hyperlinks. The wrong way makes your documents look silly, with unclickable, blue, underlined words.
For the right way, go to File > Save As in Word, select PDF from the Save as type (on Mac, Format) menu, and save your PDF document. If you use Windows and have Acrobat installed, you will also have a File > Save as Adobe PDF option, which you can use instead. This gets you a text-based PDF, instead of a scanned image, which means it preserves most of the information your Word document had, including links. If you print the document and scan it, you just get an image. OCR can restore the text information (albeit with some errors, usually), but it will not automatically add things like links.
If you need to add your real signature (as opposed to an e-signature) to your document, then just scan the signature page, not the whole document. You can replace the blank signature page in your PDF with your scanned signature page. Do do this in Acrobat, just go to Tools > Pages > Replace.
For a lot more information about using Acrobat for legal documents, and in law practice generally, check out PDF for Lawyers.
Why You Should Use Hyperlinks in Legal Documents
When it comes to litigation, at least, because judges want you to. Linking citations to the record on PACER or your state’s e-filing system, if it has one, is a big time-saver for judges. When it comes to legal documents you draft for other purposes, it may be useful to add hyperlinks, but consider how the document will be used.
If people are likely to read the document on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and if hyperlinks would be useful, then you should definitely use hyperlinks. But you cannot click paper, so if there is no chance people will read your document in an electronic format, then it probably does not matter if you add hyperlinks, unless they are for your own use.
Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. ↩
These screenshots and instructions are for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows. ↩
These screenshots and instructions are for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows. ↩
These instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows. ↩
These instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Word 2016 for Windows. ↩
FYI, there is no point in linking to documents on your computer or a file server unless the recipient of your document will be reading it on your computer or, in the case of a document on your file server, on a computer on your network. This can be useful for internal documents, but it is useless for anything else. ↩