It’s only WORD

It’s only WORD

Shubhadeepa Das

As a technical writer, your first responsibility is to create textual content. Textual content implies words and words are the elements with which you communicate. Now, you can either use the words to create meaningful content or a plethora of garbage. To ensure that you are not churning out incomprehensible texts, you need a word processor.

A search in Google yields the following definition of a word processor:

“A word processor is a device or software program capable of creating, storing, and printing text documents. It allows users to write and modify text, display it on a screen, save it electronically, and print it.”

Voila! Your search for a word processor begins! A tool that will do your bidding, help you weave magic with words, and then, create an output that will engage your readers quite effectively. From simple editors that allow you to copy/paste and delete texts to AI-enabled editors that run a spell and grammar check and suggest revisions, technology has come a long way. Today, there are multiple tools and a variety of features to choose from. However, when I look at the word processors of all time, Microsoft Word still makes its way to the top of the A-list. Since its first release in 1983, it has gone through many avatars, adopting to the Operating Systems—DOS, UNIX, Windows, and MAC. 

Any basic computer software course introduces Microsoft Word to a student. With the onset of online classes and the acceptance of softcopies as school assignments during the Covid era, MS Word has become a necessity for early learners. For students, homemakers, professionals—anyone who uses a personal computer for effective documentation, knowledge of MS Word always comes with numerous advantages.

In technical writing, this tool acts as a teacher for early writers, who aim to understand the nuances of the trade. Let’s look at some of the skills that working with MS Word imbibes in you, when and why you should use it, and its limitations as a tool. 

How does MS Word prepare you as a technical writer?

Information gathering

Taking notes is an instinctive and a vital characteristic behavior for any type of author. While Notepad has been a common tool for scribbling, MS Word offers you greater flexibility in putting your initial thoughts in a clear format from the very beginning. Due to its default style tags, you get to see clear paragraphs in legible fonts with basic alignments that suit the eye of a reader. Moreover, it automatically draws your attention to the style tags, numbering and bullets, alignment, font style, color, size, etc. Even while you scribble your notes, you start using the features of MS Word to align your thoughts in a certain flow. As we collect information through various sources, laying them out in a MS Word file not only makes the process superfast, it is less taxing to the brain. Typing in MS Word and writing on paper comes naturally; for most of us today, typing is much easier than writing.

Content organization and structure

The default template in MS Word comes with all the basic structural elements a document may need—layout, headers and footers, TOCs, tables, titles and headers, spacing and alignment, bulleted and numbered lists. As you dig deeper and start using the tools within the application to create a new template, insert images and references, embed files, create graphics using the various graphic elements, to name a few, you are no longer just an author, you become an artist, a designer. You develop a fine sense of the aesthetics or the Look and Feel of your document. From the first cover page to the last page, you brainstorm, visualize, design, and present your content using the different features and menu items this simple application offers you.


Being a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor, MS Word provides writers with a clear understanding of what to expect as the end-result. Compared to other tools, typing and formatting the content is super easy in MS Word. In-built features, such as Language settings, Spelling & Grammar, Word Count, Thesaurus, Compare, Change Case, Find, and Replace help you write well. Bookmark and Cross-reference features allow you to create links between related content. Use the View options and the navigation pane to  You can also watermark the document as ‘Draft’ if you wish.

In the latest trend of AI integration, Windows Copilot used with MS Word enables you to edit and revise content faster, saving hours in writing, sourcing, and editing time. Like any AI tool, it could sometimes misguide, but as the author in control, prompt it well and it will certainly shorten, rewrite, or give feedback on your content.


The most favorite and handy review features are the Track Changes and New Comment. Edit content without losing the original text, add comments to specific locations to give suggestions or ask questions; markups let the author view changes made by the reviewer. Collaboration is simple and you can also combine revisions from multiple editors into one file. Turn on the paragraph marks to catch spacing, alignment, and pagination errors. Simple AI like Read Aloud and Check Accessibility support inclusivity. With such editor-friendly features, reviewing becomes a fun task; you develop a keen sense of alertness with an eye for detail.


As mentioned before, MS Word is used by the general audience and not just by writers. It is accessible to many. You can also save your file in the following formats (refer to the screenshot). PDFs are easily consumable and downloadable from any device. MS word best suits the consumers who prefer a downloadable PDF or a printed output.

Why should you use MS Word?

MS Word provides the basic tools that allow you to be productive as a technical writer. Some of its advantages are listed below.

  • Templates: A variety of templates are available. Most templates are easy to use and customizable. It also allows you to create a template from scratch and produce documents specific to your needs. Learning the art of creating a template in MS Word can help you throughout your journey as a tech writer, when you use different tools for building an effective information architecture. 
  • Integration: You can integrate a Word document with another media available within the Office suite; incorporate graphs, presentation materials, worksheets as dynamic links. If the external media is modified, your document is updated instantly.
  • Smaller files: Unlike large files that eat up storage space, the standard DOCX format has significantly reduced the size of Word files. Therefore, maintaining and sharing files are easy. 
  • On-the-Go tool: Windows phones and tablets include a mobile version of MS Word. Though it is not as robust as the desktop version, it still helps you create and edit simple documents. In Android phones, you can download and install the Microsoft Word app from the Google Play Store. View and edit from anywhere anytime.
  • Versatility: MS Word is used to create different types of documents, such as agendas, brochures, calendars, cards, flyers, forms, invoices, lists, letterheads, planners, proposals, reports, and schedules. Many Add-ons are available to suit your needs. Besides working on technical documentation, you can explore other templates and unleash your creativity by generating different types of content in different forms.

Overall, it is a great tool for small documentation projects and learning the skills of technical writing using a simple UI.

What way is MS Word limited as a documentation tool?

With all its goodness, MS Word does not meet the expectations of effective product documentation. The disadvantages are listed below.

  • Easily corruptible: Overuse or incorrect use of section breaks, macros, embedded files, and other add-ins may lead to a very complex structure and make your file susceptible to corruption. Some signs of a corrupted file are headers and paragraphs changing alignment, bullets being inconsistent in size or showing black boxes, erroneous pagination, weird TOCs, etc.
  • Unable to support massive content: MS Word is not a recommended tool for huge documentation content. A maximum of 700-1000 pages may work before it gets corrupted. It is difficult to maintain such huge linear content, which does not support any modern concepts, such as DITA.  
  • Does not support web content: You cannot use MS Word to generate publicly accessible      online content. Also, dynamic content update is not possible via MS Word, which makes it a less preferred Authoring tool. 
  • Not consumable across all platforms as an output file: It works best as a source file and not recommended as an output file unless you need a PDF or a printed output.
  • High cost: A version of the software with most features can be very expensive. For startups with large teams, using MS Word as a documentation tool may not be budget-friendly. Many start-ups and individuals shy away from MS Word and settle for cheaper tools, such as Libre Office or other open-source tools.
  • Not all versions are intuitive: Most users never use all the functionality. The number of features could easily overwhelm a novice. Between different versions, the menu ribbon changed considerably. Some users opine that the lack of intuitiveness could add to the confusion.

With more focus on accessibility and user-centric documentation, MS Word is not appropriate for a holistic user experience in terms of documentation. However, as a tool for creating initial drafts, or getting content reviewed, it remains a preferred choice.

How to learn MS Word?

While the UI seems intuitive, it is important to learn how to use MS Word efficiently to create good quality documents. Fortunately, it is easy to explore and learn the tool.

  • Supportive help: MS Word itself has good documentation. Numerous online tutorials, videos, and blogs are available for your knowledge.
  • Learn by experience: Use this application extensively and play around with the menus; try out the unknown features. With an Undo you can always revert any unwanted change. Better still, to have a practice draft and keep experimenting.
  • Books: If you love a paperback in your hand, good books are available in the market that cover every aspect of MS Word. Start with free tutorials on the internet maybe and then learn about more advanced techniques from a book after you have mastered the basics.
  • Courses: Microsoft has a lot of free training courses available on its website. You may take guidance from the seniors and experienced mentors in the Technical Writing community.

As you reach the end of this article, I congratulate you for reading through the innumerable “words” typed diligently in MS Word for you. A refresher for the veteran users of this amazing tool and a reminder to the freshers that amidst the hype of technology and fast-advancing software, a glance at this traditional tool gives you more insights into this age-old genre of Technical Writing and helps you gain confidence as a writer. If you know how to work through Microsoft Word, learning any editing and word processing tool becomes smoother as your foundation is strong. 

I leave you with the famous lines of the Bee Gees song…

“It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away”

About the Author

A passionate writer, mentor, and communication enthusiast, Shubhadeepa has spent 18 years as a Technical Writer in the IT industry. She started her career as a technical writer and editor, moved on to become a UX Writer and has a proven track record in mentoring and structuring an effective team of technical writers and content designers across the globe. She believes that sharing knowledge and being an active part of a community always enhances an individual’s ability to express and gain a holistic perspective of one’s area of work. She has conducted Tech Writing and UX Writing webinars and workshops in various forums during her career. 

Highly approachable and ready to help aspiring writers, she is also a certified mindset coach, who emphasizes the need to connect with each other as humans and build a positive society, where we can live in harmony.

Current Role: Lead UX Writer
Company: Avalara Technologies
City: Kolkata
Connect at LinkedIn

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