Geoff Hart is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) with more than 35 years of experience as a writer, editor, information designer, and French translator. During this time, he's published more than 450 articles, most available via his Web site (, as well as the books Effective Onscreen Editing, Writing for Science Journals, and Write Faster With Your Word Processor. A popular speaker at the STC annual conference and STC chapter meetings, Geoff has given presentations and workshops in North America, the U.K., India, and China on topics ranging from writing and editing to information design, cross-cultural communication, and workplace survival skills. He currently works as a freelance French translator and scientific editor, specializing in authors for whom English is a second language. In his spare time, he writes fiction and has sold 63 stories.

How to Write Faster With Your Word Processor by Geoff Hart

Word processors are tools of the writer's trade, and like all professionals, writers should master their tools. Whether you're happy with your current writing approach and productivity, or have grown frustrated with the limitations imposed by your current skills, there's always room for improvement. In this book, I'll teach you how to improve your existing skills and learn new ones. As you master these skills, you'll find yourself focusing more on the craft of writing and less on the tools themselves. That means you'll write better and faster, with less need for revision. But I'll also teach you the skills you need to revise your manuscript effectively and to work with editors and publishers once your manuscript is ready to meet the world.

Write Faster is the book you didn't know you needed—until you start reading and see how much you could improve your writing efficiency. Throughout the book, I'll explain how to apply a word processor's tools to each type of writing challenge. I'll teach you efficiencies such as customizing the software to meet your needs and moving quickly through a manuscript using only the keyboard. Such small things may seem unimportant, but I saved 10+ minutes per day by developing only three movement shortcuts. Use those 10 minutes to learn more skills, and the savings can amount to many hours during a week. These tools are based on my more than 35 years of experience teaching writers and editors to use word processors.

To make the strategies concrete, I use Microsoft Word 2019 for both Windows and the Macintosh to show how you can implement these principles in the real world. (You'll benefit from the book even if you don't use Word, but you'll have to learn how your word processor implements the specific techniques.) I've provided the information in small chunks, designed for easy reading and browsing. You can dip into the book to solve a specific problem, or read it a chapter at a time to increase your mastery of the art of writing with a word processor.



  • "This book promises to make a huge difference in my writing efficiency."

    – Laura Ewald, writing in the 21 January 2022 issue of the NAIWE newsletter



Chapter 1. Use This Book Effectively

This is not a book about the craft of writing. There are dozens of good books that discuss the art of crafting stories, and one of them is likely to be exactly what you need. For example, if you're a fan of Stephen King's fiction, his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft will be to your taste. James Alan Gardner offers a crash course in his A Seminar on Writing Prose that's worth your time. Martin (M. Harold) Page offers Storyteller Tools: Outline From Vision to Finished Novel Without Losing the Magic, which provides a (to my knowledge) unique way to think about organizing your thoughts effectively using tools such as conflict diagrams. Experienced editor Amy Schneider is working on a book on editing fiction that, if you're lucky, will be published in 2021.

There's a glossary! Word processors are complex and confusing. Unfortunately, you need to learn a few technical terms to understand some of what I describe. If you haven't encountered a particular term (perhaps because you haven't yet read the chapter where I define the term), there's an extensive Glossary to help you understand these terms. Most italicized termology is in the Glossary.

My book is about mastering the tools you use to craft fine writing. Your goal should be to master those tools so well that you stop focusing on the mechanics of writing and pay more attention to the craft. With practice, those mechanics become nearly subconscious, and that's the first and best advice I can provide: pick one or two skills that will save you time or improve your writing quality and practice them until you can do them without having to stop and think about what you're doing. Since your word processor is the primary tool of your craft, you'll need to put up with a little frustration while you work through poorly considered software design until you internalize how it works. For tools you won't use regularly, use this as a resource to help you find those tools and learn or remember how to use them. Although I'll concentrate on Microsoft Word, most other programs offer similar features, or let you create your own variants of those features.

Keyboard and menu conventions: In Windows, most keyboard commands use the Control key plus one or more additional keys; Macs use the Command key. To avoid the need to repeat every keyboard command twice, I'll use the shortcut Control/Command to remind you to use the Control key in Windows and the Command key on the Mac. For menus and dialog boxes, I will use > to indicate the next selection in a series of choices. For example, File > Save means that you should open the File menu and select the Save choice.

If you write fiction professionally, consider the Scrivener software. Scrivener is designed specifically as a writer's tool, and integrates all of the necessary features in one polished interface. Its primary drawback (and it's a big one) is that it's difficult to move files back and forth between Scrivener and Microsoft Word, and most publishers use Word to edit manuscripts. Scrivener's unique file format and approach to structuring manuscripts makes it difficult to reimport edited text into Scrivener. You lose some of the glue that binds these files together. Here, I'll try to help you build your own equivalents of most features that Scrivener provides. They won't be as smoothly integrated, but they'll still let you accomplish many of the same goals.

The book has the following structure: In Part 1 (Get Started), I'll describe how to prepare your computer and your software for writing. The idea is that you should make your work environment as comfortable as possible so that it isn't a constant, nagging annoyance that wears you down. The tools I'll describe in this section will make all subsequent stages of writing easier and more efficient. In Part 2 (Write Your First Draft), I'll describe the writing-support tools that will get you efficiently to a first draft that you can subsequently revise. In separating writing from revision, I'm explicitly endorsing the suggestion that you should write, more or less without any backtracking, until you reach the end, and only begin revising after you reach the end. There will occasionally be exceptions to this guideline, since you'll at least occasionally discover a problem that requires you to return to earlier parts of the manuscript to correct parts of the text affected by the problem. In Part 3 (Revise Your Draft), I'll show you how to focus on the key tools you need to turn your first draft into something that's ready to send to your beta readers, reviewers, or an editor. You may need to create several drafts before the book is ready to show to someone else, and this part of the book will speed up that process. In Part 4 (Appendices and Miscellaneous Resources), I've collected details on how you can protect your manuscript and yourself, as well as various useful tools for writers.

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