Computer tools for production and printing
Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processing program. It offers hundreds of features. Students are advised to explore the Help Index or ask friends and colleagues for advice and assistance with special features that may be useful. A few easy-to-use special features are listed here.
Save time typing long technical terms like “methyltritiptosterone-17” or “Rapid Rural Assessment” by using Microsoft Word’s Autocorrect feature under the Tools menu bar. Type in you own abbreviation, then the term in full. When typing, every time you enter the abbreviation, Word automatically types in the full term. This not only saves time but ensures consistency of spelling.
Build you own custom dictionary of technical words and Add names to the normal dictionary. Having your own dictionary speeds up a Spellcheck considerably, saves time and ensures consistency of spelling. Ask your lab supervisor, friends or languages for assistance with setting up a custom dictionary.
Most grammar checkers are not very useful. For example, they mark nearly every use of passive voice, but passive voice is not only allowable in technical writing, it is preferred when you want to focus on the object or recipient of the action.
The specimens were kept in air-tight containers for 90 days (by someone, the lab assistant, the researcher).
The lab assistant kept the specimens in air-tight containers for 90 days.
It is actually distracting to the reader for someone or the ‘lab assistant’ to be mentioned at all.
Note that Spellcheck does not understand the meaning of a word or a sentence. It frequently occurs that during a Spellcheck, a writer inadvertently substitutes a correctly spelled ‘wrong’ work (or did I mean word not work?) in the sentence. You must develop the habit of reading what you have written to make sure that it makes sense. Some words are frequently misused – form&from, to&too&two, their&there, etc. If you are poor at typing and spelling, make sure that you do not allow your spelling checker to suggest wrong words.
Want a better word to express your meaning? Not sure the word you are using is the right one? Check an online thesaurus for a list of words with similar meaning. Microsoft Word offers a thesaurus, too. To use it, highlight a word and then type <Shift>+<F7>.