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5 Microsoft Word Formatting Tips for the Regulatory Professional

March 26, 2015 | BJ Witkin, Senior Manager, Regulatory Operations | Regulatory Operations

laughHave you ever experienced bad behavior from your document? You know, those times when it just would not listen and do what you wanted it to?

The March meeting of the Electronic Concepts Technical Discussion (ECTD) Group covered some common Microsoft Word problems and the useful tools that can be beneficial to frustrated writers.

Here are five useful tips from that meeting:

1. Views and Options: In Word there are different ways to view your document and within each view there are different options. Each of these views has its own strengths and weaknesses, which means you need to choose the one that is right for your situation.

Under the View Tab, you can select:

  • DRAFT view (formerly called Normal view) lets you see the Style Area Pane to ensure the correct styles are applied, but in this view you can’t see graphics or how your document appears on a page.
  • PRINT LAYOUT lets you view the document within its margins, display the header, footer, and pagination, and see the graphics. Many writers use this view because it gives them a better overall picture of their writing.

Regardless of which view you’re in:

  • PRINT PREVIEW lets you see the entire document one page at a time. It’s essentially a preview of the printed copy without wasting paper. Find this under the File tab and Print.
  • The STYLE PANE is visible in both Draft and Print Layout views and can easily be turned on or off (ALT+CTRL+Shift+S). It gives a list of all the available styles in the document and allows you to choose the style you want to use. There are also several other ways to choose the right style.
  • The SHOW/HIDE BUTTON on the Home tab is useful because it allows you to see such important items as hidden text, tabs, spaces, and line breaks (also called soft returns). Seeing these allows you to control where text falls within a line or on a page…or at least lets you know why your text isn’t where you want it to be!
  • The RULER LINE lets you see things like your indent settings, where your tabs are set, and your current margins. For some reason, in Word 2007 Microsoft decided the default should be to turn it off so you may need to enable it.

2. Copy/Paste Options: When pasting between documents, you may want to manage how the text comes in—do you want to retain or remove the source formatting? The copy/paste options allow you to choose defaults for pasting text from various sources.

On the File tab, go to Options, then select Advanced, and scroll down to Cut, copy, and paste:


3. In addition to the Copy/Paste options, the Clear Formatting Button on the Home tab can be handy when bringing in text from another document. The Clear Formatting Button removes foreign styles and reverts your text back to the Normal style. Now you can apply your desired style without worrying about old formatting causing a conflict.

If your text has the correct style, but a user has applied a bunch of manual formats—changing the font and size, adding color, bold, italics, etc.—you can quickly remove manual formatting while keeping the underlying style. Simply select the text and press Ctrl+Spacebar. Your text will now set itself back to the style originally applied.

4. Navigation Pane: Similar to your bookmark pane in a pdf file, the navigation pane lets you jump from place to place without scrolling through your document or clicking back and forth in the table of contents.

For large documents generated by the typical medical writer, it’s an invaluable tool. You can even move entire sections of your document by dragging and dropping within the navigation pane!

On the View tab, check the Navigation Pane checkbox to activate it.

5. Customize your Quick Access Toolbar. With the arrival of Word 2007 and subsequent versions, users have had fewer ways to customize Word and many of us have been frustrated by the Ribbon. The Quick Access Toolbar lets you keep your frequently-used commands always in sight to reduce your frustration. Customizing the QAT is quick and easy.

Need Help?
IMPACT has a certified Microsoft Office trainer who can help you and your team with your MS Word issues. Whether you need advanced training in MS Word or document management support, IMPACT’s Regulatory Operations group can help — Contact us or call today at 919-899-9248.

If you have a question or you’d like to suggest a future blog topic about Word or any of the other Microsoft Office products, please don’t hesitate to contact me!


Want to learn more about the Electronic Concepts Technical Discussion (ECTD) Group?
The mission of the ECTD Group is to provide a forum for networking and exchanging knowledge on global regulatory requirements and current and emerging technologies related to electronic submissions (eCTD) that impact regulatory affairs professionals in the health-regulated industry.

Founded in 2009 by Kathy Elks and Ann Brown, the ECTD Group meets monthly during the school year in Research Triangle Park, NC. As an independently operated sister organization to the North Carolina Regulatory Affairs Forum (NCRAF), you must be a member of NCRAF to join the ECTD Group. For more information, please contact Ann Brown.

IMPACT will summarize the ECTD Group’s monthly meetings in future blog posts, but if you would like to hear the information first hand, consider joining the group. We currently have over 80 members from diverse fields including non‑profits, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotechs, academia, and CROs.

Category: Regulatory Operations
Keywords: eCTD, medical writing, document services, Microsoft Word, formatting tips

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