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Word Tips for Legal Writers

Word tips for law students and other legal writers.

Symbols, Diacritics & Special Formatting

Legal writers often have to use symbols that other writers don't encounter much, notably the section sign (§) and the paragraph sign (¶). They might need to type words or names with diacritic marks (e.g., González). And in law review footnotes they also use LARGE AND SMALL CAPS. The boxes that follow tell you how.

Section Sign, Paragraph Sign

Long way (OK for once in a while):

Insert > Symbols > More Symbols > Special Characters > § Section

Shortcut key:

  • When you get to the box listing Special Characters, highlight § Section and click on the gray Shortcut Key link at the bottom.
  • Now choose some combination of keys that you'll be able to remember—e.g., ctrl-8.
  • Click Assign.
  • Close the Special Characters box.

Now whenever you type ctrl-8, you'll get § .

AutoCorrect:

  • When you get to the box listing Special Characters, highlight § Section and click on the gray AutoCorrect link at the bottom.
  • Type some letters or characters that will be replaced with §—e.g, sec.
  • Click OK.
  • Close the Special Characters box.

Now whenever you type sec., you'll get § . It will have a blue line underneath it, giving you the option of overriding the AutoCorrect.

 

Of course you can use these techniques for ¶ and other special characters.

Long way (OK for once in a while):

Insert > Advanced Symbol > More Symbols > Special Characters > § Section

Shortcut key:

  • When you get to the box listing Special Characters, highlight § Section and click on the  Shortcut Key link at the bottom.
  • Now choose some combination of keys that you'll be able to remember—e.g., ctrl-8.
  • Click Assign.
  • Click OK.
  • Close the Special Character box.

Now whenever you type ctrl-8, you'll get § .

 

 

Of course you can use these techniques for ¶ and other special characters.

Diacritics

Copy and Paste

An easy way to get diacritics right is to copy and paste from somewhere reliable. For example, you can go to Justice Steven C. González's profile on the Washington Courts website and copy his name into the document you're working on. (Use Paste Special so the font matches whatever you're using.)

Basic Method

Insert > Symbols > More Symbols > Hunt for the one you need > Insert

screen snip diacritics in Word

Shortcut Key

The box listing the various symbols lists shortcut keys that are already assigned. For example, é is Alt+0233. If you can remember that, great.

But you can also assign a shortcut key that will be easier for you to remember—e.g., alt-e.

AutoCorrect

If you're writing a paper about Venezuelan politics, you'll type the names Nicolás Maduro and Hugo Chávez a lot. Instead of messing with the special characters each time, you can put the names in AutoCorrect.

  • Select the text you want to add.
  • Click File.
  • Click Options.
  • Click Proofing.
  • Click AutoCorrect Options, then AutoCorrect tab.
  • Make up a code: e.g., *hc to be replaced with Hugo Chávez.

 

Copy and Paste

An easy way to get diacritics right is to copy and paste from somewhere reliable. For example, you can go to Justice Steven C. González's profile on the Washington Courts website and copy his name into the document you're working on. (Use Paste Special so the font matches whatever you're using.)

Basic Method

Insert > Symbols > More Symbols > Hunt for the one you need > Insert

Shortcut Key

You can also assign a shortcut key that will be easier for you to remember—e.g., alt-e for é.

 

Italics, Bold, Large & Small Caps

As is often the case, you have several ways to accomplish the same task.

Format Using the Ribbon

Type a word or phrase, then click on the format icon in the Home part of the ribbon. You can also click on these options before you start typing, and everything that follows will have that format.

screen snip format ribbon

More Font Options

In the lower right corner of the font section of the ribbon, there's a tiny arrow. Click on that to see more formatting options.

screen snip font formatting box

Here you can choose large and small caps, strikethrough, and other options.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Most font formats have keyboard shortcuts that make switching from ordinary roman to italics to large and small caps a breeze. You use the same shortcut to turn a formatting on and to turn it off.

Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, [keyboard shortcut: ctrl-i, to turn italics on] The Right to Privacy [keyboard shortcut: ctrl-i, to turn italics off], 4 [keyboard shortcut ctrl-shift-k, to turn on large and small caps] HARV. L. REV. [keyboard short cut: ctrl-shift-k, to turn off large and small caps] 193 (1890)

Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 HARV. L. REV. 193 (1890)

ctrl-i: italics

ctrl-b: bold

ctrl-shift-k: large and small caps

ctrl-u: underline