Formatting in Word – Not Frequently Asked Questions

You have a mysterious railing sentence. I bolded it for you.

I write a lot of papers. I am an undergraduate, I take gen-eds that require essays, and I typically have to follow MLA format. No matter how long I write in MLA I still have some questions regarding how to format it in Microsoft Word. Those annoying formatting issues that just pop up. I hope to solve a few of those not-frequently asked questions that come up when writing a paper.

Q: You know when you are writing a paragraph and one line falls over to the next page and Microsoft Word helpfully adds a line of text? How do I stop that?

A: These are called widows and orphans. When you are writing a paragraph and you get a one line spillover this is called a widow. An orphan is when you are writing a paragraph and one word makes up your last line of text. Both of these can be really annoying.

Quick and Dirty Fix: If you are not writing in MLA format and you don’t care about margin space then you can just change the margin size [page layout –> margins –> and change margins to your will]. Or, a quicker and dirtier fix is just changing your paragraph to eliminate a sentence or add some more. The issue with this fix is that when you go back and edit your entire paper and you may end up

Actual Fix: If you hope to actually fix this issue Word has a real fix for it too. It’s actually really easy too. The simple fix is [file –> paragraph –> line and page breaks tab –> uncheck the widow/orphan control box]

Q: Talk to me about strikethrough

A: I use strikethrough when making lists and I want to show that I have marked something off the list. This is what strikethrough looks like. There is no direct keyboard shortcut for strikethrough. Instead, you have to go through font every time. The steps are [highlight desired text to be stricken –> right click –> scroll down to font –> under the font tab –> check the strikethrough box]

Q: I do a lot of chemistry homework and I use a lot of super and subscripts. Please tell me there is a keyboard shortcut

A: I’m going to copy and paste Microsoft’s answer to this problem:

  • For superscript, select the text or number that you want, and then press Ctrl, Shift, and the Plus sign (+) at the same time.
  • For subscript, select the text or number that you want, and then press Ctrl and the Equal sign (=) at the same time.

Q: I accidentally wrote a paragraph in CapsLock and I don’t want to rewrite it. Is there a fix?

A: There is! And while researching this I audibly gasped because I thought it was impossible. The steps are to highlight the text you want to change the case of, and then press [shift+F3].

Hopefully these tips will help save you some time when you’re next writing a paper this semester. Additionally, check out the IT website for how UMass students, faculty, and staff can sign up for Office 365.