Word Processing Getting Started with Microsoft Word

If you have not used any word processor at all, see How word processing works in general. This page just describes Microsoft Word.

What to do first

Somewhere, there will be a shortcut to Microsoft Word. It will probably be under the Start menu, then Programs, and possibly Microsoft Office. When you have found the shortcut, click on it, and Word will run. Depending whether your computer is networked (or possibly some other reason), it will come up with a little window asking you what your name is. If it does, just click on OK. It doesn't really matter.

You should get a mainly white screen, looking something like this: Microsoft Word Window although the window will be bigger, and may look slightly different, depending on exactly how Word has been set up.

You can probably guess what a lot of the things mean. The B, I and U buttons make the text bold, italic and underlined, as described in How word processing works in general. "Times New Roman" and "12" refer to the font name and text size. "Normal" refers to the style of the writing, which is one of the things which differs between word processors, although most support styles in some form or another. This is a more advanced topic which you probably do not need to know about.

What the things do

Along the top of the window are various menus and buttons, as shown in the picture above. Here is a brief description of what each of them do:


Under this menu, you will find various commands to do with files. You can create a new blank one, open one that you've saved earlier, save the current one (under a new name if you wish), print it or close the program. These works the same way as most other programs, so a general description is included in my Beginner's Guide.


These commands are all to do with changing (editing) the document. Cut, Copy and Paste are described in the general guide to Word Processing. You can also undo changes you have made, and find text in a long document.


This allows you to insert various things into a document (not including text). The most useful one is pictures. A few of these are described in advanced Word topics.


This changes the appearance of text or paragraphs. They are listed in order of use, so most of the time you will use "Font", you will use "Paragraph" a bit, and probably won't use "Object" at all. You might use "Background". The items are fairly self-explanatory.


I describe Spelling & Grammar later, and Word Count is obvious. You will probably not want to use the others, although have a look at Options and see if you want to change anything.


This menu is devoted to creating and manipulating tables. Create one, and then try playing with it.


This menu is only useful if you have more than one Word window open. Create several new documents, and you can use the list at the bottom of this menu to switch between one and another.


Don't use this too much or it'll put me out of a job.

First toolbar

This is the first line of little pictures. You may recognise some of them from the menus. They should all be on the menus somewhere, and do the same thing. If you do not recognise one, move your mouse over it, and a little cream box will appear telling you what the button does.

Second toolbar

The first thing tells you what the text style is, which you do not really need to know about, but if you like you can change the style for headings. The second thing tells you what the font is. Change this to change what the writing looks like. The third thing tells you the size of the writing.

Then you will see some things which affect the writing, such as bold, italic and underline, left/centre/right/justified paragraph, indents and lists and text colour.

Speling & Grammer

Type "Speling & Grammer" into Microsoft Word. You will notice (a) that the words are spelled incorrectly, and (b) that Word has underlined them in red, a bit like this Word has recognised that they are misspelt, and is pointing this out to you. Some people find this irritating, but in fact it is very useful, as you might forget to perform a spelling check before printing out your work. The red underline tells you immediately that you've made a mistake.

Right-click on one of the offending words. A menu will appear, probably with the words "Spelling", "Spieling", "Spellings" and "Spilling" on it. If you click on one of them, it will replace the incorrect word with the word you clicked on. The top one is usually the right one, but Word suggests several, in case it guesses wrong.

Now type in a nonsense word, such as "Pollifloodle". The chances are (especially with a word that long) that it is not sufficiently similar to any known word for Word to give any suggestions. If you right-click on the word, it will say instead "(no spelling suggestions)".

Word of course does not know every word that is in use. This is especially true of people's surnames (try Edkins for example). On the menu you will also find "Ignore All", and if you click on that, it will ignore any future occurrences of that word. It does not remember the word when you start a new document, however. If you want to permanently add it (adding your name might be useful, for example), click on "Add". This will add the word to Word's dictionary.

Type the word "colour" (U.S. users can ignore this bit). Hopefully, it will not underline it, and if it doesn't, then you're OK. If it does, click on "Edit", then on "Select All". This selects all of the text in the document. Then click on "Tools", then "Language", then "Set Language". You can also set it to other languages, variations on English, French and Spanish work on my computer. If the language has a tick beside it, then you're OK and Word should mark incorrect spelling as incorrect. If the language does not have a tick beside it, then it will simply ignore the spelling errors. If part of your document is in one language and part is in another, you can select part of it using click and drag, then Tools/Language/Set Language as before.

Now try typing "The cat sit on the mat". All of the words in the sentence are correct, but it is not grammatically correct. This time it will underline the sentence, or in this case part of it, in green, like this

Right-click on the green bit and you will see "cat sits" and "cats sit". Click on one of these and Word will replace the incorrect bit, and the sentence will now make sense.

Word is notorious for getting the grammar check wrong. Type, for example, "Press the key which is to the right of Ctrl." Most people would not consider that sentence incorrect, and type similar things all the time. Wait for a second or so, and you will notice that it underlines "key which" and suggests "key, which" and "key that". If Word always considers a particular word arrangement incorrect and you do not, click on "Tools", then "Spelling and Grammer..." and click on "Ignore" until the sentence in question comes up. When it does, click "Ignore Rule". It will then not mark that sort of grammar error incorrect in future.

Word does not always give suggestions, especially for very long sentences (which are always flagged as incorrect, unless you tell Word to ignore them). It also does not always recognise grammar errors.

If you repeat a word, Word calls it a spelling error (i.e. underlines it in red), rather than a grammar error (green). I do not really understand why. It does not consider "that that" or "had had" incorrect, since both can be part of valid sentences.


Have a play around. A lot of things are quite obvious and do not need to be described. If you want to find out more, click on more advanced Word topics.

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