Stop AutoFormatting in MS Word

Last Updated Mar 27, 2007 8:23 AM EDT

Microsoft Word, the medium in which almost all of my work is done, is not a particularly user-friendly beast. It crashes on occasion, and it doesn't interact well with documents written on other software. In its standard settings, it tries—often incorrectly—to anticipate my needs, and it messes with my concentration by attempting to autoformat my quasi-html chicken scratch into lists. It also continuously tells me that my sentences are ungrammatical. (That's unpossible!) Using an older version of Word, a college classmate once mistakenly autocorrected his term paper on The Bell Jar such that all references to "Sylvia Plath" were rendered "Silver Platter." (According to the Language Log, overaggressive spellchecking in Word has been dubbed "The Cupertino Effect.")

What to do? Besides making better use of Word's keyboard shortcuts, there are several things you can do to make Word work better for you. Rick Broida of Lifehacker has compiled an amazing compendium of tricks to make Word les format-happy by teaching you how to turn off hyperkeys, smart quotes, superscripts, and—my favorite—the automatic numbered lists that seem to pop-up constantly. Over CNET, Andrew Savikas has tips on what to do if Word repeatedly crashes, and, as a special bonus, a slightly complicated section on how to turn Word documents into PDFs without shelling out big bucks for Adobe Acrobat.