An American Editor

June 5, 2017

Lyonizing Word: You Have Options

by Jack Lyon

Microsoft Word is packed with options, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have them, but it’s hard to know how to set them to best meet your needs. To see the options available, click File > Options. Then click the kind of option you want to see (General, Display, Proofing, and so on), using the menu bar on the left. You’ll see the associated options on the right.

“But how,” you ask, “do I know what all these options actually do?”

Detailed explanations are available from Microsoft’s website as follows:

Options Article Title
General Word Options (General)
Display Word Options (Display)
Proofing Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2016

Select grammar and writing style options in Office 2013 and earlier

Save Word Options (Save)
Language Customize language features in Word 2013 and later
Advanced Word Options (Advanced)

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s explanations of the Advanced options are not detailed. For a few of those options, you can get additional information by resting your cursor over the little “i” icon to the right (you can enlarge an image in this essay by double-clicking on the image):

Information icon

The function of many of those options is self-evident, which may be why Microsoft doesn’t provide much explanation. (Actually the Editor Options [Advanced] page at the Microsoft website does give details for many of the options, even though it’s meant for use with Outlook 2007.) Some of the options definitely need more explanation, which I’ll try to provide here for the ones that look like they might be of interest to editors. (Some that look like they might be actually aren’t.)

Obscure Options Explained

Editing options

Use smart paragraph selection

All this means is that when you select a paragraph, Word makes sure that the final paragraph mark is also selected. That’s useful if you want to retain the paragraph’s formatting and settings, but not if all you’re after is the text itself, so you’ll need to decide which option is best for you.

Use smart cursoring

If you use the mouse and scroll bar to move to a different page in your document and then press one of the arrow keys, this feature places your cursor on the page to which you’ve scrolled. I see little use for this feature and keep it turned off. But now you know what it does.

Prompt to update styles

If you directly format some text, this option tells Word to ask you if you’d like to update the text’s underlying style to match the formatting you just applied. This could be handy if you’re designing a document, but not if you’re editing one.

Keep track of formatting

This option keeps track of your formatting as you work. It’s useful if you’re cleaning up a document with inconsistent formatting (which means most manuscripts), because you can then right-click some text and then click “Select Text with Similar Formatting.” At that point, you can change or clear the formatting or apply a style to all of the chunks of text that are selected. You can also display a list of the formatting used by clicking Options on the Style pane; then select the paragraph, font, and bullet and numbering formatting you want to track.

Mark formatting inconsistencies

This option is available only if the previous one has been selected. It tells Word to mark inconsistent formatting with a wavy blue line, which may give you some guidance about which text you should right-click and change, as described in the previous paragraph.

Enable click and type

This feature allows you to click anywhere on a blank (or otherwise) page and start typing at that point (if you’re in Print Layout or Web Layout view). For editors, this seems completely useless.

Default paragraph style

By default, Word uses Normal as the default paragraph style. If you’d like to use a different style, like Body Text, you can specify that with this option. If your document is headed for InDesign after editing, your typesetter might appreciate being able to use something more meaningful than “Normal.”

Show document content

Show picture placeholders

Have you ever received a manuscript that’s supposed to include graphic images, but when you open it, the images are replaced by empty boxes, like this?

Picture placeholder

What you’re seeing is a “picture placeholder,” which exists to keep Word from slowing down as it tries to display graphic images. This rather unintuitive feature should have been named something like “Hide graphic images to improve performance,” but I’m guessing someone at Microsoft didn’t like the implication that Word ever gets bogged down. You can stop chuckling now.

Even worse, if you edit in Draft mode, you won’t see an image or a placeholder; all you’ll see is what looks like an empty paragraph. If you delete it, you’re actually deleting the image, so watch out.

Show field codes instead of their values. Microsoft Word uses fields to generate things like indexes and tables of contents. If you activate the option to show field codes, you won’t see the index or table of contents; instead, you’ll see the field that generates it. For example, the field code for a table of contents looks like this:

{ TOC \o "1-3" \h \z \u }

The field code for an index looks like this:

{ INDEX \c "2" \z "1033" }

Each of those codes includes “switches” that change the display of the generated text. Information about table of contents switches can be found in the article “Field codes: TOC (Table of Contents) field” at Microsoft’s website. Information about the index switches is found in this article, “Field codes: Index field.”

Word uses field codes for lots of things. The article “List of field codes in Word” goes into greater detail.


Style area pane width in Draft and Outline views

This is a very cool feature that I use all the time. In the little box to the right of this option, enter a value — two inches (2″), say. Then switch to Draft or Outline view. When you do, you’ll see the style area pane on the left of your document, with the name of the style that’s applied to each paragraph. No more guessing! If you want the ultimate experience editing in Word, try using this feature with the Cockpit in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014.

Style area pane


Prompt before saving Normal template

The Normal template holds Word’s styles, macros, and lots of other important stuff, so if you change any of that stuff, Word saves your changes in the template. This option allows you to choose whether or not Word does that automatically.

Hidden Options

Microsoft Word also includes some options that you can’t access through a menu, although they are accessible via macro, as discussed in the next section. Here are a few that might be useful to editors.


The contextual speller identifies the structure of words and their location within a sentence to determine if spelling is correct. It can find errors that the standard spelling checker can’t. For example, if you type the words “superb owl” instead of “super bowl,” Word checks the context of the sentence and determines that the correct words are “super” and “bowl.” This looks like a fantastically useful feature; the problem is that it makes the change automatically as you type, so if you decide to use it, you’ll need to watch it carefully.


This option looks for the following when checking for misused words during a grammar check: incorrect use of adjectives and adverbs, comparatives and superlatives, like as a conjunction, nor versus or, what versus which, who versus whom, units of measurement, conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns.


This option tells Word to notify you when additional proofing tools are available for download.

Changing Options with a Macro

To use options like those requires a macro. For example, here’s a macro that will toggle ContextualSpeller:

Sub ToggleContextualSpeller()
   Options.ContextualSpeller = Not Options.ContextualSpeller
End Sub

Line 1 specifies the name of the macro (subroutine), which is ToggleContextualSpeller, although you could name it anything you like.

Line 2 gets the value of the ContextualSpeller option and changes it to the value that it currently is not. For example, if the ContextualSpeller option is set to True (that is, it’s active), the macro changes it to False. If the option is set to False, the macro changes it to True. Hey, it’s a toggle!

Line 3 ends the macro.

To use a different option in the macro, just change Options.ContextualSpeller to the option you want to use. For example, the following macro toggles the option for EnableMisusedWordsDictionary:

Sub ToggleEnableMisusedWordsDictionary()
   Options.EnableMisusedWordsDictionary = Not Options.Enable
End Sub

You’ll find a complete list of Word’s options for use in macros at the Options Properties pages (for Office 2013 and newer) and Office 2010 of the Microsoft website.  If you find yourself changing a certain option a lot, you might create a toggle macro for it and then put that macro on a shortcut key for easy access. No more digging through menus!

How about you? Which options do you love? Which do you hate? I’d love to hear about the options that work best for you.

How to Add a Macro to Word & to the QAT

Here’s how to put this macro (or any other) into Microsoft Word so it will be available when you need it:

  1. Copy the text of the macro, starting with the first “Sub” and ending with the last “Sub.”
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Type a name for the macro in the “Macro name” box — probably the name used after the first “Sub.”
  5. Click the “Create” button.
  6. Delete the “Sub [macro name]” and “End Sub” lines that Word created in the macro window. The macro window should now be completely empty (unless you already have other macros in there).
  7. Paste the macro text at the current insertion point.
  8. Click “File,” then “Close and Return to Microsoft Word.”

To actually use the macro:

  1. Place your cursor in your text.
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Click the name of your macro to select it.
  5. Click the “Run” button. (If you wanted to delete the macro, you could press the “Delete” button instead.)

Here’s how to put the macro on Word’s QAT (Quick Access Toolbar):

  1. Locate the QAT (it’s probably on the top left of your screen either above or below Word’s Ribbon interface).
  2. Right-click the QAT.
  3. Click “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
  4. Under “Choose commands from:” click the dropdown list and select “Macros.”
  5. Find and select your macro in the list on the left.
  6. Click the “Add” button to add it to the QAT.
  7. Click the “OK” button to finish.

Jack Lyon ( owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

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