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Microsoft Word Fundamentals for Efficient Lawyers and Law Students

This guide provides tips and links to tutorials for key tasks in Word that lawyers and law students undertake daily.

Track Changes

Problem: Another person has provided you with a document that she has asked you to review.  You want to make changes to the document, but you want those changes to be apparent, and you do not want to handwrite the changes.

Solution: Before making changes to the document, enable Word’s Track Changes feature on the Review tab to show your changes to the document.

Explanation: Track Changes will show the text that you inserted, as well as the text that you deleted or moved. Attorneys often refer to a document that includes Track Changes as a Redline Document.

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Tutorial: Track Changes in Word (includes a video)

Pro Tip: An individual’s Word settings may alter how that individual views the tracked changes.  If you want the other person to see the changes as you see them on your computer, you can preserve that formatting by saving the document as a PDF. To do so, select “Save As” on the File tab, and from the file format dropdown menu, select PDF. However, if you want the other person to be able to accept or reject your changes electronically, you will need to also send a Word version of the document; otherwise, the other person will have to type your suggested changes.  This tutorial provides a step-by-step explanation with supporting visuals, including a video for Word for Windows, on saving a Word document as a PDF. The process is the same for Word for Mac.

Accept or Reject Track Changes

Problem: You have received a document with tracked changes.  However, you want to keep some of those changes, but not all of them. 

Solution: On the Review tab, you have the option to accept or reject changes within your document. 

Explanation: You can choose to accept all of the changes in a document, or you can accept each change one by one, also rejecting changes that you do not want to integrate into your document.  By the end, you should have a clean document without tracked changes.

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Tutorial: Accept or Reject Tracked Changes in Word

Pro Tip: A document including tracked changes will more than likely be returned to you with the Track Changes feature still enabled.  So that you don’t end up tracking your subsequent changes if you don’t want to do so, disable Track Changes as soon as you open the document.

Insert or Delete a Comment

Problem: You are working on an important document, and you want to leave yourself a note within the document to remind yourself to revisit whether you’ve effectively discussed a key case.

Solution: Add a margin comment to the document; you can find the Comment button under the Review Tab.  You can later delete this comment—and any other comments you add—when you no longer need the comment.

Explanation: The Comment feature is a useful tool when you want to leave yourself notes about your document, or you want to provide notes about the document for others to read.

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Pro Tip: Tracking changes and adding comments become metadata within your document. If you are creating the document as a part of your law practice, this metadata may include privileged information or other internal communications that you should not provide or do not wish to provide to opposing counsel, the client, the judge, or whomever else ends up with the document. Therefore, before sending the document electronically outside of your workplace, carefully remove this metadata by deleting all comments and accepting or rejecting all changes within the document.   

Compare Differences in Two Documents

Problem: Your colleague has suggested changes to your document, but you don’t know what changes the colleague made (your colleague needs to learn how to use Track Changes!).  You need to understand what those changes are before you incorporate them into your final document.

Solution: Create your own redline document by using Word’s Compare feature on the Review tab.

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Document Word Count

Problem: You have been given a word count limit for your document, but you don’t know how to check your document’s word count.

Solution: Just look at the status bar at the bottom of your screen.


Tutorial: Show Word Count

ProTip: You can also calculate the word count for particular text by highlighting the relevant text; the word count of that text will appear in the status bar at the bottom of your screen.  This feature is particularly helpful when you are trying to determine whether a quote includes fifty words or more so that a block quote is necessary.

Find and Replace Words

Problem: You have misspelled a party’s name throughout your document.  You have typed “Siedel” rather than “Seidel.” This name appears in your document over fifty times, and finding and correcting each error will be tedious and time consuming.

Solution: Use the “Find and Replace” feature in the Editing section of the Home tab.

Explanation: You can use Find and Replace for not only text words and phrases, but also for character formatting, such as font color, bold, or highlight.


Tutorial: Find and Replace Text

Pro Tip: Unless you are certain that you need to replace every instance of a word or phrase within your document, do not select “Replace All.”  Rather, review each instance of the word you need to replace by selecting “Find Next.” While that selection may take more time than a single click of the Replace All button, it ensures that you do not make embarrassing mistakes within your document. 

Hear Text Read Aloud

Problem: You have a hard time spotting clarity and proofreading issues while reading your own writing.

Solution: Use Read Aloud within the Immersive Reader box on the Review tab to hear Word read your writing to you.

Explanation: Newer versions of Word include a number of learning tools, including Read Aloud.

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Tutorial: Listen to your Word Documents
Pro Tip: Are you struggling to type words on the screen for Read Aloud to read to you? Sometimes, talking helps you to overcome writers block. Try dictating your documents in word by using the speech-to-text feature. You can find the Dictate button Office Dictate Button in the Home tab, towards the right side of your screen. Click here for a tutorial.