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Optimizing Microsoft Word for Academic Writing

There are some quick and easy things you can do in Microsoft Word to optimize your writing.

1) Don’t rely on Word’s default proofing settings

If you want Word to offer stylistic suggestions (such as removing the passive voice), or if you’d like more data about your writing than word count (such as number of passive sentences, readability statistics, etc.), you can turn on more options. Go to options (you should be able to find this under the file tab) and then Proofing. From here you will be able to turn on style suggestions and readability statistics (which will be available to you after you go through the spelling and grammar check suggestions).

2) Remove metadata

This is vital if you’re submitting something that is supposed to be fairly judged without knowledge of the author (e.g., peer review) or if you don’t want someone to know how long you’ve spent editing a document. To remove this metadata, go to the file tab and then select the info option. From there you can see a “Prepare for Sharing” button that you should use in some circumstances.

3) Use Field Codes

You should have an academic writing document template with embedded and automatically updating field codes. You can use these to insert things such as the date the document was most recently revised, the word count, etc. To start using field codes, go to the Insert tab, find the Quick Parts button and click on it, and select Field from the drop-down menu that will appear.

4) Use Word to create PDFs

You don’t need the full version of Adobe Acrobat to create PDFs. When saving a document, you can select PDF as the format and have a document that appears more final and professional.

5) Use a citation manager that has a Word plug-in

Don’t cite manually. Citation managers can be used to store and organize your references (including PDF files associated with them) and then to automatically cite and create bibliographies as you write in Word. I’m familiar with Endnote and Mendeley. Both are useful and have Word plug-ins for citing, but I’ve found Mendeley to be simpler to use for citing in Word, easier to learn, and better for organizing my journal article PDFs. And, Mendeley is free.

6) Use the Review tab

There are many things you can do from the review tab. Experiment with the Track Changes and Compare buttons. They won’t be entirely necessary for everything you do (especially the compare button), but they are indispensable in some situations.

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Timed Gmail Filters That Can Be Used for Semi-Spam, Blog Notifications, and More

GMAIL LOGO FROM WIKIPEDIAIf you want an empty inbox, or close to it, this post could help.

You can have timed filters, which will make it easier to deal with recurring emails (such as daily calendar emails from Google Calendar) and semi-spam (such as Newegg’s deal email barrage) you want to see and then want gone, as well as emails you want to see and then want archived for later (such as notifications from blogs you follow).

Lifehacker provides the foundation post  on a Google Apps Script you can use to automatically clean up Gmail with timed filters. You’ll need to go to that post, or the original post that Lifehacker’s advice is based upon, for the basics on how to utilize the scripts.

I found Lifehacker’s advice very useful for things I want to see but don’t want to keep (e.g., Google Calendar emails and semi-spam), but less useful for things I want to arrive in my inbox but then archive to look at later (such as email notifications from blogs I follow). Lifehacker’s post provides another script for archiving, but I didn’t like it as posted (it automatically archives all opened emails after two days) because sometimes I have an important pending email I want to keep in my inbox and don’t want to have to mark as unread for it to stay.

Thankfully, you can modify the auto-archive script to only archive particular emails after two days (or whatever amount of time you want). In case you don’t know how to edit script, I’m posting the script as I revised it for filtering blog notifications. This script archives, rather than deletes, these emails so that I can get back to them later if and when I have more time:

function archiveBlogs() {
// Archive blog notification emails after two days
var threads = GmailApp.search(‘label:Blogs older_than:2d’);
for (var i = 0; i < threads.length; i++) {
threads[i].moveToArchive();
}
}

If you use this code, the email notifications will arrive in your inbox where they’ll stay for 2 days (you can change the length of time), after which they’ll be moved out of your inbox. They will still be available under the “Blogs” label in case you want to go back to them later.

For this and the code from Lifehacker to work, you’ll first need to create Gmail labels (e.g., “Blogs”) and set up filters that will label emails appropriately. If you don’t have labels with the names in the script before you run it, you’ll get an error message.

Another Gmail Tool (which doesn’t require code):
Boomerang is another great, and easier to use, tool for maximizing Gmail. Boomerang let’s you schedule an email to be sent later (so that people think you sent it at 7am instead of 3am). You can also have Boomerang temporarily remove an email from your inbox and schedule its return to your inbox at a more relevant time.

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