Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Using Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is a program that allows you to write and format documents. It gives students a lot of options for changing the look of their documents, from inserting pictures, tables, and graphs, to changing the size and type of font.


While advanced users might make use of dozens of these options, most documents will only require that you use a few. Here’s a brief guide to these options and where you can find them in Word 2010 (if you have questions about using a previous version of Word, try the support page from Microsoft).

  1. The Ribbon
  2. Font
  3. Paragraph
  4. Insert
  5. References
  6. Review
  7. Save

The Ribbon

Microsoft Word uses a “ribbon” format to organize all of their options. Across the top of a Word document, you will see separate ribbon options, such as Home, Insert, and Page Layout. These work a little like tabs in an internet browser. When you click on one of these options, several boxes will appear below. Think of this as a sub-menu, with options sorted into categories. The options you’ll use most often are located under the Home ribbon: Clipboard, Font, Paragraph, Styles, and Editing. Each of these sub-menus can be opened as a pop-up window by clicking on the little arrow in the lower right-hand side.



Most of the time, your readers will expect your paper to appear in a standard font, such as Times New Roman. You can change your default font by opening the pop-up, picking the font you want, and selecting Default. You can also change your font size using the drop-down menu. Here, you’ll also see the options for writing in Bold, Underlined, or Italics. You can select these buttons and begin writing, or highlight your existing writing, and then click the button to change it.



This sub-menu includes a number of options for formatting your sentences and paragraphs. You can choose where your text appears on the page (left, center, right, or justified), add bullet points or lists, and change your indenting and spacing. Double spacing your paragraphs makes them a little easier to read. You can also change the size of your margins by sliding the buttons on the rulers to the top and to the side of your paper. Check your style guide (see our entries on MLA and APA for more details) to see which settings are most appropriate. You may also adjust some of these settings in the Page Layout ribbon.



Under the Insert Menu, you’ll find the Header & Footer box. Here, you can add text and numbers that will appear at the very top (header) or very bottom (footer) of your pages. Some style guides require you to list the title and page numbers on each page of the document, so consult them for more details.



This ribbon lets you manually add citations in a particular format, depending on your style guide’s requirements. It can be useful when you are unsure of the format, but it is worth learning how to do so without these buttons as well.



This ribbon houses tools that will allow you to review your work. Under Proofing, you’ll find the Spelling & Grammar check, which will search for mistakes in your text and offer suggested corrections. Please note that this button will not catch every type of error (such as using a homophone in place of the correct word), so make sure you read over your entire paper as well. You can also check your word count and find a synonym in the Thesaurus.

The ribbon also includes the Comments and Track Changes features. You can add a comment to your work by highlighting a piece of text with your cursor and selecting the New Comment button. You can select Track Changes to display any changes to your text in another color, so they can be identified. If someone else has added changes to your paper, you can go through them one by one and decide whether to Accept or Reject each change. 



It’s a good idea to save your document as you’re working on it, in case your computer loses power or you have to stop working for some reason. Click on the Save button on the upper left to save your document. The button looks like an old hard disk from computers in the 1980s. You can also save your document by selecting Save from the Office Button on the upper left. You’ll have the chance to name your document and decide where on your computer you want to save it. Give your document a specific name, so you can locate it easily in the future. You can also use the “Save As” option to change the name, file type, and storage location for the document.