27 Word Processing Skills All Students Should Know
If you’ve ever watched students write a document on Microsoft Word for the first time, it’s pretty humorous.
You are bound to see students writing in a rainbow of colors and fonts, with unconventional margins and absolutely no sense appropriate spacing. And once they’ve finished their jumbled and imperfect document, they don’t have the slightest clue how to save it.
Observing students use a word processor for the first time makes you realize that there are a lot of little skills adults use while word processing that we don’t even think about.
Knowing your way around word processing software is a crucial foundation for all kinds of documents that students will use in their future careers. The sooner they can learn these skills, the sooner they’ll be able to draft up documents worthy of attention.
Not sure where to start? Below are the 27 word processing skills that all students should know.
1. Creating, Naming, and Saving a Document
These three basics are the trifecta of getting started with word processing. Make sure to teach students the difference between “Save” (which will save your document under the current name) and “Save As” (which allows you to rename a document).
2. Formatting (bold, italics, font sizes, aligning text)
The toolbar at the top of your page is your friend when it comes to all things formatting. Let students play around with changing font sizes and colors to learn, but then always set clear expectations about the required formatting for an assignment.
3. Creating lists (bullet vs. numbered)
With the click of a button from the toolbar, students can create numbered or bulleted lists. Teach students the different times when this is appropriate (say for an outline or brainstorming).
4. Line spacing
Also on their main toolbar student have the option of how they want to space their lines. Most academic papers use 1.5 or double spaced.
5. Creating columns
Creating columns is especially useful for writing articles, pamphlets, or other specialized pieces. From the “Formatting” drop-down menu students can choose two or three columns, or customize their own number.
6. Inserting a bookmark
Just as you use a bookmark to save your place in a book, you can use one in Word to save your place in a document. From the “Insert” menu, students can place and name a bookmark so they remember to come back to that part later.
7. Inserting an image
If students are writing articles or poetry, they may want to insert an image. Also accessed from the “Insert” menu, make sure students have the image they want saved on their computer so that they can upload it.
This is a great skill to know for informal papers or blog posts where students want to link their own work to where they accessed the information. Highlight the text you want to hyperlink, right click and choose “hyperlink” and then paste the URL of your destination.
9. Find & Replace
Realize you’ve spelled someone’s name wrong throughout your paper? From the “Edit” menu students can find all of the incorrect spellings and ask Word to automatically replace them with the correct spelling. Problem solved!
10. Grammar & Spell Check
Most up to date word processing programs will automatically check spelling and grammar for students by displaying this squiggly red and green lines. Teach students not to ignore those lines! If they can’t figure out the mistake on their own, right click to find the suggested correction.
11. Inserting a page break
Writing a play with multiple acts and want each one to start on a new page? Insert a page break from the “Insert” menu to ensure that each act will always start at the top of a new page.
12. Using word count
Minimum and maximum word requirements are a fact of life. From college to the workplace students will need to write within a word count range. Use the “Tools” menu to find out how to check your word total so far. This number is also displayed as a running total at the bottom of the screen in Microsoft Word.
13. Inserting Tables
Whether writing a biology lab report or a business proposal, you may want to insert a table in your writing. To do so click the “Table” button on the toolbar and select how many rows and columns you’re going to need.
14. Inserting Rows/Columns
Need more rows or columns than you initially anticipated? Just right click within your table and choose to add a row above or below or a column to the right or left. Repeat as needed!
15. Cell shading
Add visual appeal to your table by shading specific rows or columns to draw attention to headings. Highlight the cells you want to shade and from the “Table Design” menu choose shading and the color of your choice.
16. Changing column/row width
While a table will automatically generate with rows and columns of uniform size, there are plenty of instances when one needs to customize the layout. The easiest way to do so is by dragging the gridlines between rows and columns to suit your needs.
17. Text alignment in tables
When it comes to tables, attention to detail matters. Customize the alignment of text within a cell by right clicking in the cell (or highlighting multiple cells and right clicking) to choose how you would like your text to be displayed.
18. Changing text direction
Complicated tables or formats may require you to change the direction of your text to better fit the space or increase readability. Click within a designated cell and from the “Layout” tab click the text direction button to toggle between horizontal and vertical text.
19. Merging cells
For more specialized tables you might want to merge some cells together within certain columns or rows. Just highlight the cells in mind and right click to select “Merge”. Voila!
20. Inserting a header
A header is useful in that it appears on every page of your document. This might be your name, a logo, a title, or a page number. Whatever you want your header to include, choose “Header” from the “Insert” menu to add text. Or, double click at the very top of a page to manually insert your header.
21. Inserting a footer
Same idea as above, just at the bottom of the page. Remember, whatever you write here will show up on every page!
Common in academic writing, footnotes allow an author to make a note about an idea in the text. Make sure your cursor is after the sentence or word you want to make a note about and then click “Footnote” from the “Insert” menu to add your comment.
23. Page numbers
Research papers and longer pieces of writing often have page numbers to help the reader reference points in the text. From the “Insert” menu choose page number and select where on the page you would like numbers to show.
24. Inserting the date
Want to include the date and time on written work? Put your cursor on your document where you’d like the date to go and select “Date and Time” from the “Insert” menu.
All done? It’s time to print! Either select the printer icon on the toolbar or click “Print” from the “File” dropdown menu. Make sure students pay attention to how many copies they’re printing, if they want double sided, and what printer they are printing to.
26. Page orientation
Most written work is done in portrait orientation (meaning your paper goes up and down), but there are plenty of times that we would like to have more space from left to right. Select “Page Setup” from the “File” dropdown menu and choose “Landscape”.
27. Custom margins
Whether you’re adding a block quote or leaving room for annotations, you might want to change the margins for all or part of your text. This can either be done from the “Formatting” tab, or using the ruler at the top of your page. Just make sure you’ve highlighted the text you want your new margins to apply to before you get started.
Teaching Word Processing Skills
How could you possibly tackle all of these without boring your students to tears? Check out the iAcademy course Business Information Management.
Through the course, each of these skills are taught with different fun activities such as creating a School Lunch Menu, working with Video Game ratings, or writing about Celebrities and their Pets. The course ends with a final project where students get to collaborate in teams to show off what they’ve learned.
With these 27 skills under their belts, your students will be ready to draft just about any document that comes their way!