Microsoft Word for Writers: Odds & Ends

Hi Folks,

ApplesOccasionally I receive an email from a writer who has no idea how to insert an em dash (there are a few ways) or what I mean when I suggest they use the Save As function to rename a document or how to save a document to a different folder on the desktop or to a flash drive, for example. Here are a few notes that might help:

To form an em dash in Word try pressing Ctrl/Alt and the hyphen (minus) key on your number pad if you have a number pad, or the regular hyphen key if you don’t have a number pad. (You can form the en dash (used only to indicate a span of number, and the word “to” is better) by pressing Ctrl and the hyphen key. If that doesn’t work, it’s because your shortcut keys aren’t set up yet. More on that in a moment. If this doesn’t work,

in the Word Menu, go to Insert > Symbols and find the em dash. Select it. (Or go to Insert > Symbols and look for the little blocks toward the bottom of the dialogue box. You’ll see a space for Character Code. Type in 2014 and in From, select Unicode (hex). This will find the em dash and select it for you.) You’ll see the shortcut key just below the Character Code box. You can change the shortcut key and you can also set the AutoCorrect options from here.

Otherwise, to access the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat Options

  • in the Word menu, click File > Options > Proofing.
  • Select AutoCorrect Options.
  • In the dialogue box, select the AutoCorrect tab.
  • In the Replace block put two or three hyphens — and in the With block put an em dash —.

Then be sure to select the AutoFormat As You Type tab  and check the little box that says Hyphens (–) with dash (—).

That’s all there is to it. If you’re still having problems with em dashes, feel free to email me.

Using Save As—In the first item in the Overall Example above, I wrote that typically when dealing with someone else’s manuscript, I will open the document and use Save As to save it as FilenameH (so the original goes untouched). Everything else I do will be on the FilenameH file. This also is an excellent technique to use if you want to keep track of different drafts of your story or essay or novel or memoir.

In Figure 19, you will see that using the Save As dialogue, you can choose not only the new filename (in the File Name area) and the file type (in the Save As Type area) but also the location (left pane).

19Figure 19

Say you’ve finished your novel. You’ve put it away for awhile and have decided to read through it and do a revision or rewrite. Here’s what I recommend:

1. Open the original file. Say the filename is GreatAmericanNovel.doc. If dates are important to you, I recommend including the date in the filename. This also will keep the revisions in sequence.

In the upper left corner of your Word menu, click File > Save As (or the Save As icon on the Quick Access Toolbar). When the Save As dialogue box opens, put in the date and then the name of the document, all in the File Name area. I use a YYMMDD format, so if I saved the file on August 17, 2013 the filename would look like this:


If I revised the document significantly six months later (in February 2014), the filename of that new document would be

140217_Great American Novel.doc.

If you don’t care about the date, you might simply use numbers or alpha characters to indicate your revisions from oldest to newest. Then your filenames might look like this:


2_GreatAmericanNovel.doc or



Finally, note that you can also change a file name without going through the Save As function. If you have the file on your desktop, for example,

  • Right click on the file
  • From the dropdown menu select Copy
  • Move your cursor to another location and right click again. This time from the dropdown menu select Paste. A copy of the file will appear.
  • Click the file once to highlight it (select it). Don’t open the file.
  • Click once again in the file name. You’ll notice that the filename is selected, except for the extension.
  • Type the new file name.

Changing the File Location—If you’ve already created the file and simply wish to move or copy it to a new location, that’s easy to do. First, be sure the file is saved and closed.

Next, put your cursor on the file, press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the new location. If you also hold down the Ctrl button on your PC as you drag the file with your mouse, it will simply copy the file to the new location. If you hold down the Shift key as you drag the file with your mouse, it will move the file (not just copy it) to the new location.

If you want to save the file on a flash drive, here are the steps:

  • Insert the flash drive.
  • In the lower left corner click Start. When that dialogue opens, in the right pane click Computer. You’ll see one or more Hard Disk drives, and below that you’ll see one or more Drives With Removable Storage. Your flash drive will be one of them.
  • Put your cursor on the file or folder you wish to move or copy to the flash drive. Press the left mouse button and hold it down while you “drag” the file or folder to the flash drive location. Again, if you also hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard while you’re dragging the file or folder, it will be copied to the flash drive instead of being moved.

Selecting Text / Copy or Cut & Paste—You also use your cursor to select text. Simply put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select, hold down the left mouse button and “drag” the highlight through the end of the text you want to select. Then release the mouse button.

To select a large amount of text, put your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to select and left click. You don’t have to hold down the mouse button. Now press your Shift key and move your cursor to the end of the section of text you want to select, then click your left mouse button again. The text will be selected.

Finally, you can Select All (select the entire document) by clicking Ctrl/A.

Once you’ve selected the text you want to select, you can copy it (to paste later).

Release the left mouse button and move your cursor up to Home > Copy (or Cut) or simply click Ctrl C to copy or Ctrl X to cut the text you highlighted. This copies the selected text to your computer’s clipboard.

To paste the same text, move your cursor to wherever you want to paste the text. You can paste the text in the same document, in a different document, or even in a different program.

Now either go to Home > Paste or click Ctrl V to insert the text you copied or cut earlier.

If you have each chapter of your novel in a different document, you can put it all into one document by opening ChapterOne.doc. First, rename it (Save As) WholeNovel.doc. Set it aside.

Now open ChapterTwo.doc. Press Ctrl A, then Ctrl C. Now move your cursor to the end of WholeNovel.doc and press Ctrl V. The entire text of ChapterTwo.doc will now be appended to the end of WholeNovel.doc. Repeat the process with ChapterThree.doc, ChapterFour.doc etc. until you’ve moved all the chapters into WholeNovel.doc.

Next up, the last post in this series, an offering on using Microsoft Word’s Styles.

‘Til next time, happy writing!


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