How to Stop Word Messing with Your Manuscript


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It’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out. One moment you’re typing away happily and the next Word has interpreted your typing as some sort of command to launch a space probe to Pluto. Or something just as confusing.

Undoing AutoFormatting

One easy way to temporarily reverse what Word has done is to watch out for the lightning bolt sign that will appear next to the text that Word has AutoFormatted. If you click that icon you will see options to Undo the action just this time, or to stop Word doing the action altogether.

If you miss the lightning bolt icon (it disappears if you keep typing), hover your mouse pointer over the text that was changed and it might reappear (if Word is not on a tea break). If not, click Undo (or press Ctrl and z). This will undo Word’s “AutoFormat” step. If you click the down-arrow next to the Undo button you will see how often Word has been AutoFormatting behind the scenes.

How to Turn Off AutoFormat

The lightning bolt icon has an option to open the AutoCorrect Options dialog box and this is probably the easiest option to select the AutoFormat and AutoCorrect features you want to turn off.

If you can’t access that icon, open the AutoCorrect Options dialog box by going through:

Word 2003

  • Tools --- AutoCorrect Options --- AutoFormat Tab

Word 2007

  • Office Button --- Word Options --- Proofing --- AutoCorrect Options

Word 2010

  • File --- Word Options --- Proofing --- AutoCorrect Options

Once in the AutoCorrect Options dialog box, here are some of the individual AutoFormat features you might want to turn off:

To turn off curly quotes:

  • Under Replace, uncheck the box for Straight Quotes With Smart Quotes

To turn off the m-dash:

  • Under Replace, uncheck the box for Hyphens With Dash.

To turn off the horizontal line that is created if you press Enter after typing three hyphens, hashes, equal signs, or asterisks:

  • Under Replace, uncheck the box for Border Lines.

Look out for that lightning bolt icon next time you're writing and don't be afraid to click it and explore the options. Learning how to turn AutoFormat features on and off can help you to feel more in control of Word.

This article was first published on Blood-Red Pencil. Copyright © Elsa Neal 2010.


Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and the teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job. Join Elle on her new publishing adventure.

  One Response to “How to Stop Word Messing with Your Manuscript”

Comments (1)
  1. I possibly did something to kill off the lightning bolt some time ago. Anyway, before reading this, I had today found my way through to the turn off autoformatting promised land. However, there was a box “exceptions.” It offered me only all future documents or the current one… actually “all future” might exclude the current, didn’t think of that. Well, I’ll try that. Otherwise, it seems I’m stuck with the Word-imposed spacing that I don’t want for the current document. I can’t believe how Microsoft has degraded its product range, especially in regard to customer choice. Shuffled their feet and prevaricated years ago when I asked them about turning off “hover,” which I’ve still got and still hate.
    W95 and Word of that era were something of a revelation. Word came with offline help files that actually made a fair amount of sense. Fairly quickly, 95 was rendered incompatible with a lot of stuff. Nevertheless, XP wasn’t bad. All downhill from there. I am only in Windows here because, at my current location, my laptop and I have forgotten how to connect to the net via linux; but I have a friend over there who can put me right. When it comes to replacing the laptop, I will be asking: So…$Xs…how much without Windows installed? I don’t want to ever again even indirectly pay for any Microsoft product.