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Technical writing in Microsoft Word

Yes, I know how to use styles properly

Need a Technical Writer to Create Manuals in Word?

“We’d like to hire you as our technical writer, but we still use Microsoft Word.”

I get that a lot. Don’t worry about it, just because I use advanced authoring tools, it doesn’t mean I will only work with those. I’ve used Microsoft Word in several jobs and I still use it when writing for Communicator magazine. It’s not the most versatile authoring tool, but it has its place and I’ll happily use it to write your user manuals. 

Writing in Word with One Eye on the Future

When you hire me as your Microsoft Word technical writer, I will make sure your document is written and designed in a way that makes it easier to convert into other formats. This is something you need to consider, as the day may come where you need to go beyond Word and PDF and present your content as HTML online.

To make your Word technical writing more ‘future-proof’, I will:

  • Use a topic-based approach for each section, so that readers can ‘dip in’ and make sense of the content, without reading ‘earlier’ sections
  • Use Styles to format the content, so that the appearance can be changed consistently and can be transferred to CSS stylesheets more easily in the future (see Why are Styles so Important?)
  • Use hyperlinks for cross-references, and make sure each section has appropriate links to other related content
  • Make sure the table of contents and indexing are designed to make it easy for readers to find the information they need.

When it comes to writing the individual sections, I will make sure your content explains ‘why’ and ‘when’ as well as ‘how to’. I’ll also make sure the content reads well and the flow guides the reader through each stage of the learning process, so that they can achieve their goals.

To hire me as your Microsoft Word technical writer, click the button at the bottom of the page to  get in touch. Just let me know about your project and the timescales and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

What are Word Styles and Why are they Important?

In Microsoft Word, there are two ways to format your text:

  • Direct formatting, where you use the toolbar buttons and other features to change the appearance of text
  • Style formatting, where you create a set of appearance rules, and then apply these to the text.

Casual Word users tend to use direct formatting, and it can cause a lot of problems in larger documents. What sort of problems? Take these for starters:

  • Inconsistencies as people tend to apply slightly different settings as and where needed.
  • Slow performance. There’s more formatting information needed in the document, so it becomes slower to work with.
  • No auto-generated table of contents. Word can create a table of contents automatically, but to do that, it needs styles. No styles, no toc.
  • There’s also the issue of the amount of time and effort it takes to apply the formatting. It takes so much longer to apply direct formatting in every section.

With style formatting, the approach is different. Each style is a set of rules that define the appearance for text. You can then apply that style to any text in your document and the text will use the formatting defined in the style.

When I write your Word documents, I will use styles so that your content is consistent, allows Word to auto-generate tables of contents, and is easier to convert to online formats.

In the images below, all of the formatting is created with styles.

Let's get your content project started. Get in touch and let me know what you need.

+44 07954141761

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