Lawyers - Are you using these time-saving Word features? (Part 1)

Until lawyers stop drafting contracts the old fashioned way, Word is here to stay. But there are many time-saving tricks in Word that lawyers don't know about. How much time will you save on that next advice or transaction document?

1. View multiple parts of one document simultaneously

Lawyers needing to refer to multiple places in the same document, such as a definitions section and specific clauses or a clause and a schedule, shouldn't waste time scrolling between the two.

It's possible to open multiple windows of the same document from the View tab and, critically, edits can be made in any window opened.

 Advanced users can resize and position each window as required, including by using keyboard shortcuts.

Advanced users can resize and position each window as required, including by using keyboard shortcuts.


2.  Customised grammar checking

Word has a significant number of grammar checking rules turned off by default. In particular, many relate to either firm style-guide requirements or principles of good legal writing. 

For example, each of the following grammar rules can each be applied through Word's automated grammar check:

  1. Two spaces after the previous sentence.
  2. Passive voice.
  3. Oxford Commas.
  4. Use of contractions.
  5. Split infinitives.
  6. Gender-specific Language.

Here are some of the (many) grammar rules my version of Word has turned-off:

 You'll need to follow the process on the right-hand side before you get to this screen.

You'll need to follow the process on the right-hand side before you get to this screen.

Unfortunately there aren't (yet) in-built grammar rules for checking whether quotation marks or brackets are closed once they've been used. These can, however, be automated using a macro. Macros are covered in many of the resources linked below.

Follow these steps to check which rules are currently being applied when Word runs a spelling and grammar check:

 After clicking "File", choose "Options" from the menu on the page which appears (see diagram, right)

After clicking "File", choose "Options" from the menu on the page which appears (see diagram, right)

Image 9 - Proofing Tools.png
 After clicking "Settings" you'll be taken to the list of grammar rules which are turned on and off.

After clicking "Settings" you'll be taken to the list of grammar rules which are turned on and off.


3.  Format Painter

Lawyers working with numbered lists, bullets or many different heading styles should be familiar with Format Painter. Simply place your cursor in (or highlight) the formatted text you want copied, and then highlight the destination text you want formatted. But there are a few tricks even seasoned lawyers don't know:

  • Double click the Format Painter button for it to stay on. This is a great time-saver if there are multiple areas requiring identical formatting.
  • You can copy and paste formatting with a keyboard shortcut First highlight the text you want to copy and do Control + Shift + C together - then highlight the destination text you want formatted and press Control + Shift + V together to paste. Perhaps more significantly - this shortcut can be used to copy formatting across from different Word documents as well.
 Do you know how to use Format Painter properly?

Do you know how to use Format Painter properly?


4.  Find and Replace - Advanced Edition

Find and Replace is a seriously underappreciated tool. You can automate checking for style-guide compliance or conformity with good legal drafting practices by, for example:

  • finding defined terms which are uncapitalised and replacing them with capitalised ones;
  • finding manual line breaks/soft-line breaks/shift-returns (Shift + Enter) and replacing them with a carriage return/hard-line break to ensure consistent formatting in your document.
 Finding any undefined terms and replacing them with the correct defined term is easy.

Finding any undefined terms and replacing them with the correct defined term is easy.

 Pressing replace here will convert the shift-return/manual line break (first punctuation mark) into a carriage return (second punctuation mark)

Pressing replace here will convert the shift-return/manual line break (first punctuation mark) into a carriage return (second punctuation mark)

A common trap for lawyers experimenting with Find and Replace is inadvertently replacing things. Choose "Replace" rather than "Replace All" to check what is going to be replaced beforehand.

A step-by-step guide to discovering the wonderment of Find and Replace.

Image 2 - Find and Replace.png
Image 3 - More Options in Find and Replace.png
Image 4 - Replace Format & Special.png
 An example of some of the many special characters you can include in a Find and Replace. The "Format" box is even more detailed!

An example of some of the many special characters you can include in a Find and Replace. The "Format" box is even more detailed!