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Word Tips for Legal Writers

Word tips for law students and other legal writers.


Tables can help you organize your notes (and your thoughts). For example, if you are trying to review a quarter’s worth of cases, you might create a chart like this:

Table shows case name, year, topic, key facts, comments

Word makes it easy to sort tables in different ways. Click on the Sort icon in the ribbon. (It has an A and a Z with an arrow.) For example, this topic could be sorted by case name, by year, or by topic.

Sort icon


Some useful options:

  • When you set up your table, choose AutoFit to Contents. That way, the columns with lots of text will be wider than the columns with little text.
  • When you have a top row with headings, right click on it, then choose Table Properties, Row, Repeat as header row at the top of each page. If your table is longer than one page, you’ll have the headings on each page.
  • If you don’t want a line or two of text to be at the bottom of one page with the rest of your comments on the top of the next page, go into Table Properties and uncheck Allow row to break across pages.
  • Headings

    You can use headings to make a mass of notes (or a long paper) easier to navigate.

    Keyboard shortcut:

    PC: ctrl-alt-1, for a first-level heading; ctrl-alt-2, for second-level, and so on

    Mac: command-option-1, for a first-level heading; command-option-2 for second-level, and so on.


    You can use the headings to create a Table of Contents for your document.

    PC: References > Table of Contents

    Mac: References > Table of Contents

    Using Word Styles to Improve Writing -- demonstration of using headings to improve the look and structure of a paper, by Allison Christians (McGill Tax) (July 22, 2019) (8:23)

    Lists and Outlines

    Use bulleted lists to help you display separate points.

    • Bullets stand out.
    • They don't necessarily indicate an order or hierarchy.
      • But you can indent if you want to show hierarchy.

    Use numbered lists to display separate point.

    1. Numbers also stand out.
    2. They imply an order.
      1. You can indent for subheadings.