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Word Tips for Legal Writers

Word tips for law students and other legal writers.


Microsoft Word is a complex and powerful application. This guide does not come close to covering all the tricks – there are whole books for that, not to mention Word’s own help screens, training materials, and Support Knowledge Base. Instead, this guide just gives you some of our favorite tips.

LinkedIn Learning

UW users have access to LinkedIn Learning, a platform with thousands of training videos for professionals.

You can search the LinkedIn Learning by keyword to find individual videos, courses, or "learning paths," that combine several courses.

You can also create and share your own collections. This Writing & Editing collection includes videos on grammar, business email, proofreading, and editing.

If you're not already an ace with office applications, search for courses or learning paths for Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Gmail, and other apps.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Throughout the guide, we tell you about keyboard shortcuts. Using a keyboard shortcut for an operation you use a lot can save you time (and benefit you ergonomically). Instead of taking your hand off the keyboard to move your mouse to the ribbon and drill down through menus, you just press a couple of keys and there you go.

For example, to turn on italics, you can mouse up to the ribbon to make sure you're in Home, then click on the I symbol. Or you can hit ctrl-i.

There are hundreds of keyboard shortcuts. We'll tell you about our favorites and link to the full lists from Microsoft.

Favorite Keyboard Shortcuts

Shortcut Function
Ctrl + x cut
Ctrl + c copy
Ctrl + v paste
Ctrl + Alt + v paste special
Ctrl + a select all
Ctrl + b bold
Ctrl + i italic
Ctrl + u underline
Ctrl + Shift + k large and small caps
Ctrl + d open up the font dialog box
Ctrl + z undo
Ctrl + y redo
Ctrl + f find (search)
Ctrl + [ decrease font size one point
Ctrl + ] increase font size one point
Alt + q go to "Tell me what you want to do" and Smart Lookup (in Word 2016)


Shortcut Function

COMMAND + X or Control + X or F2

cut text or graphics to the clipboard

COMMAND + C or Control + C or F3

copy to the clipboard

COMMAND + V or Control + V or F4

paste the clipboard contents

COMMAND + Control + V

paste special


select all
COMMAND + b bold
COMMAND + i italic
COMMAND + u underline
COMMAND + Shift + k large and small caps
COMMAND + Z or Control + Z

undo the last action


Control + f find (search)


decrease font size one point


increase font size one point


Word Versions

We first created a guide with Word tips in 2006-07, when the library was using Word 2003 on PCs running Windows. Since then we've gone through different operating systems and upgrades. Many of the tips are basic enough that they work on whatever version of Word you're running. For others, you might find that you need to check out the help screens to see how to get something to work.

Just so you know what we're working with:

  • We are currently using Microsoft Professional Plus 2016 on our office PCs.
  • At least one of us has a Macbook with Microsoft Word for Mac.
  • And we sometimes use Word Online (via OneDrive or SharePoint).

In this guide, we'll give tips for Windows and Mac, without specifying the version.

Do a Search

Google logo

  1. Word is a very powerful program.
  2. Millions of people use Word, for all kinds of writing.
  3. Thousands of people post tips and hacks.

Therefore, if you think it would be convenient to be able to do something, it's likely that someone has figured it out and posted instructions. Just search for it.

For example, if you want to have some text in a table be vertical, try a search like sideways text in word table. You'll find things like:

I started with Google out of habit, but the same search in Bing brought similar results. Use whatever search engine you prefer.