Microsoft Word® for the Legal Profession: Reformatting Documents

Turn on paragraph marks

I’ve started a new series for The Indiana Lawyer on Microsoft Word® for the legal profession. The first article in that series was published recently. You can read it here. In it, I address one common complaint I often here from lawyers and staff regarding a document: what in the world is going on with the formatting in this document?

This first article focuses on reformatting documents received from others versus starting with a blank document. I hope the tips in this article will help you re-format troublesome briefs, discovery from other offices, and estate planning documents that contain copy and pasted information.

From the article

There’s a good chance that your document contains information that was copied and pasted from older Word (or WordPerfect) documents, websites, emails, or the like. Since each “source” file likely has its own formatting applied, one of your first tasks is to determine if you can fix the existing text or need to start over. Thankfully, Microsoft Word makes this relatively easy, if you reveal the formatting.

Some of the tips from the article will help you understand how to see what formatting has been applied to your document. I show you how to turn formatting marks on and off and explain why those marks are helpful. Also, the article will show you how to reveal the formatting of the text of your document to help resolve troublesome problems.


Microsoft Word® is a staple tool in the legal profession. Taking a few minutes to learn more about the tools used on a daily basis will help you be a better lawyer for your clients. My goal with this series is to help you understand some of the more annoying features of Microsoft Word® to reduce your day-to-day frustrations. By the end of the series, you should have a good understanding of how Word works and how you can harness its power based on your particular type of practice.

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