Microsoft Word (Mac)/Writing Papers for College

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Word is your basic tool for writing papers for college.

Using it well can help you write papers that have been formatted correctly and have been proofed for spelling and common grammatical errors.

There are a few basic things that everyone using Word should always do.

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Define Your "Normal" Style

The standard for papers in Freshman English should serve you for just about all your needs, at least in far as the basic text is concerned. MLA conventions which have been adopted by the WSU English Department require that your papers meet these basic criteria:

  • Font is a serif font like Times New Roman at 12 points
  • Lines are double-spaced
  • Top and bottom, left and right margins are one inch
  • First-lines of paragraph are indented 1/2 inch
  • Text is aligned to the left

These are also the "basics" for the APA conventions (adopted generally by social sciences).

See MLA versus APA Conventions for details of differences. You may want to set different styles for these different conventions. For example, Quote (MLA) or Quote (APA).

When Word opens a new document it automatically starts up with the "normal" style.

Here is how you can modify the "normal" style to the MLA/APA basic requirements:

1. Choose Format-->Style from the menu bar.
2. Note the current settings for "Normal" as selected in the dialog box.
3. Click on Modify. This opens a second dialog Box. A sample is shown, and choices are given for modifying Font, Line Spacing, and Alignment and so on.
4. Change the Line Spacing to DOUBLE. Choose the Font you want.

Comparison of Fonts<---Here is a sample of how three different serif fonts look. You can use any of these or others which are serif.
5. Open the pop-up menu with the "Format" button on the bottom right.
6. Select "Paragraph" to open a dialog to modify paragraph settings.
7. Select under Indentation: Special --> First Line. It will reset to 1/2 inch by default. Leave it at that.

8. Click Okay to close this dialog.
9. Back at the Main Dialog for Style, check the box "Add to Template." Note: the new style settings are described in the window. This will be the way all new documents will be formatted unless you modify them.
Click Okay to close this. And you are done!!

Editing a Style for Long Quotes

The rules for indenting "long quotes" differ between MLA and APA conventions.

  • MLA requires any quote more than 3 lines of verse or 4 lines of prose should be indented by 1 inch.
  • APA requires any quote more than 40 words long should be indented by 1/2 inch.

The following sentence(s), if still inside the paragraph, will then be flush to the left with no indentation.

Here is how to cite a long quote:

  • Change first-line indent to zero; and
  • Change left indent to 1 inch or .5 (1/2) inch--the example shown is set at 1 inch.

If the long quote is in the middle of the previous paragraph, make sure you start this following sentence(s) flushed left with no indentation. You can use your "Delete" key at the front of the sentence to remove the indentation.

Editing a Style for a Bibliography or Works Cited

The rules for Bibliography indentation in MLA and APA conventions are the same, although the actual format for the citation is different.

Make sure you use the correct bibliographic citation for the correct convention you are using. See: MLA versus APA Conventions.

Both require "hanging lines" where the second line and lines thereafter are indented by 1/2 inch.

Here is how you do it:

  • Have your correctly cited MLA/APA sources listed.
  • Highlight every source in your works cited.
  • Right click > Paragraph
  • Under the Indentation section, find Special and click Hanging. Make sure the By says 0.5"

Alphabetizing Your Bibliography

You can alphabetize your bibliography or any list of things by using the "Sort" command on your menu item Table-->Sort.

To use this:

First: select the items to be listed. They should be all "highlighted."
Then: select the menu item Table-->Sort.
Then the dialog box will open and by default it should "sort" paragraphs in ascending (alphabetical) order.
That is all there is to it. You will need to repeat it if you add items to the list out of alphabetical order.

Other Resources

For How to convert Word Doc to PDF.

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