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Success tip: Master Microsoft Word

Learning how to use Word effectively, especially its advanced features, will make you more successful at work and anywhere else good documents are required.

Presented on 13 July 2021. Posted on 25 July 2021. Q&A section added 11 August 2021.

This page shares a 15-minute video presentation "Advanced Microsoft Word" which I gave to colleagues at the United Kingdom Shareholders Association (UKSA) on 13 July 2021 and some of the Q&A which followed.

Before that are some preliminary comments.

How I learned to use Word's advanced capabilities

I have used word processing software since the early 1980's. However at Arthur Andersen and Price Waterhouse / PricewaterhouseCoopers the typing of large complex documents was of course always a task for our secretarial staff. My own typing was for short simple documents at home or short file notes not meriting the delay involved in handwriting / dictating for professional typing.

In 1997 I started the three year task of writing my CIOT Fellowship Thesis. While I could have asked my secretary to do the word processing for me, it was not practical because I was doing the writing at home. Also, I wanted to use IBM ViaVoice dictation software to create my written text, rather than handwriting. (About 15 years ago, I moved to Dragon Professional as my dictation software.)

That meant needing to learn the advanced features of Word for large documents. I achieved that by buying and reading a book on advanced Word. I would give details, but the book is no longer available for purchase. There are other books on the subject, but I have not read any so cannot make a recommendation.

Why you need to master Word

Obviously your success depends primarily on your mastery of your subject. My ability to give good tax advice was vital for my career; far more important than my word processing skills.

However mastery of Word gives you the following, which are in approximate order of priority:

  1. Because you understand what is possible, you are better placed to instruct people who report to you regarding what you want in the document.
  2. You can make small amendments in complex documents (for example small changes in a draft report) without "breaking" the document. You may need to do this when no secretary is available.
  3. You can produce much better documents, and more efficiently, even without a secretary to do it for you.

Obviously if you use other powerful word processing software rather than Microsoft Word, the same points still apply.

How this presentation came about

I am a member of the UKSA Policy Team, and recently created for the Team a template for large response documents. For an example, please download the UKSA & ShareSoc joint response to BEIS's consultation "Restoring trust in audit and corporate governance". The PDF version of the joint response is on the UKSA website. (Despite the browser showing the former Word document name, this download is a PDF.)

The 77 page document uses a number of advanced Word features including:

As most readers will not have software which can convert the PDF file back into Word I have made a Word version available so you can see how the above are implemented.

My Policy Team colleagues asked if I could organise some training in Word, and I was happy to oblige. It was delivered using Zoom and recorded.

Accordingly, I can share my presentation. My colleagues have also consented to my sharing the best parts of the question and answer ("Q&A") session.


Presentation outline

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

Question & Answer session

The Q&A session allowed me to demonstrate how to do certain things, and also to address some conceptual questions. I have transcribed the questions and published videos of my demonstrations.

How do you compare two different versions of a document to show the differences?

Why do professional firms regard it as risky to send out Word documents? Is it possible for someone to see the history of previous changes to the document?

In the video below I show how you can change the display while editing a document which has change tracking turned on.

If you choose the option to show "No markup" you can forget that the document is using change tracking because it looks as if tracking is not happening.

Sending that document to someone else allows that person to see the original document before all of the (invisible) tracked changes, just by changing the display to "All markup."

Quite apart from allowing you to track changes, Word also stores a significant amount of "undo" information while you edit a document. During the presentation, I was unsure whether, if you save the document and send it to someone, that person can open the document and use"undo" to see what changes you made.

I have since checked, and saving a Word document automatically erases all "undo" information.

Can you demonstrate the use of styles further? When editing a document, how do you see which style has been applied to particular text?

In the video below, I also answer whether modifying a style takes effect for all documents, or for just that one.

How do you create a cross reference that will always stay up to date as the document expands or contracts?

I can see styles in the "Home" part of the ribbon, but also on the "Design" part of the ribbon. Which should I use?

When asked this question on the day, I gave a garbled and incorrect answer! The reason is that, until now, I have not felt any need to use the "Design" part of the ribbon.

Reviewing my (unpublished) recording of my attempt to answer the question, the distinction became clear. As others may be as confused as I was, I explain the distinction below.

Styles listed on "Home" part of ribbon

A style is a set of properties that you apply to a "thing" using the (somewhat inelegant) language of my presentation slide 7.

Screenshot of Word document showing three styles in use.

In the screenshot above, the following styles are used:

"Thing" Style used
2. About UKSA, ShareSoc, and the response authors Heading 1
UKSA (United Kingdom Shareholders' Association) Heading 3
Paragraphs 43 and 44


The reason there is a blue box around "NumNormal" in the styles list in the ribbon is that I had my cursor resting inside paragraph 43 when I took the screenshot.

That is how you see what style a piece of text is. Click the text and relevant style in the ribbon is highlighted with a blue box.

While a style can be applied to many things, the style itself is a single collection of properties, such as "Bold, Arial, 12 point, numbered".

The "Design" part of the ribbon

Below is a screenshot showing the design section of the Word ribbon, with the dropdown list of Themes expanded.

Screenshot of Word document showing the design part of the ribbon.

Style sets

Listed on the ribbon to the right of the drop down "Themes" menu box is a series of boxes, all of which have "TITLE" at the top, and some hard to read text underneath, apart from the first box which only has "Title" and nothing else in the box.

Each box is a "Style set." That is a collection of styles, so Heading 1 to have certain properties, Heading 2 to have certain other properties, etc.

If you hover the mouse over each style set box, the style set's name is shown and you also see a preview of how the document will look if you apply that style set.

If you click a style set, every style in that style set is applied to each "thing" in your document that has that style.

For example, the style set you select may specify that the Heading 3 style is "Calibri, 14 point, underlined." All "things" in your document that have the Heading 3 style automatically take on those attributes. Meanwhile, all "things" that were Heading 2 take on whatever properties Heading 2 has been given in that style set.

If you like your documents to look a particular way, it is worth creating a style set with the styles just the way you like them, and giving it a name like "MA." You can then apply that style set to whatever document someone else sends you with a single click.

Assuming of course that the document's originator made proper use of styles!


If you click one of the themes in the drop down menu, you will see that all the style set boxes refresh.

Accordingly, a theme is a collection of style sets.

I have never had occasion to use themes myself, but choosing a particular theme (especially one you have created for yourself) gives you far more high level control over the appearance of the document than you are ever likely to need.

This abundance of choice is one reason many find Word such an overwhelming program to use, and why most of us only use those Word facilities that they find necessary. My list of what is necessary has just grown slowly over time!


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