Four hacks for easy formatting

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Formatting is the last and final phase of your paper, when you fix those typos, check your citations, number the pages, make sure all the headings are bolded and all the sub-headings are italicized, and that everything looks nice and clean to the eyes.

Formatting is also a humongous pain.

Believe me, I know how much you hate formatting. Half-way through proofreading, you realized that you didn’t capitalize the “B” and the “F” in “Big Five personality traits”… in any of the 5,000 times you said in the paper. You aren’t sure if you put all of your in-text citations into the references, but you don’t really care at this point. The page numbers get all screwy, and you don’t even notice until you’re ready to submit. Ugh.

Let me give you my four hacks for easy formatting, all of which I use every single time I format a paper for a client, and you can follow along with handy dandy photos:

Split the window

I save citations and references for last. As I read the paper (backward, from the last sentence to the first, remember the Change-Up Method?), I check to make sure each cited source also appears in the references list.

The hard way to do this: As you read the paper, every time you see a parenthetical citation, you stop, scroll all the way down to the references, check to see if it’s there. When you’re done, you scroll all the way back up and try to find where you left off reading.

The easy way to keep an eye on the references list, without losing your place in the text?

Split the window. At the top toolbar, select the “Window” option, then click “split.” The window will split in two. In the bottom window, I scroll down to the references. In the top window, I read the paper. Every time I see a parenthetical citation, I click through the references in the bottom window to see if it’s listed there. If it’s not, I can add the citation, right there in the bottom window.

The best part? I never lose my place in the top reading pane. You can also adjust the size of the screens, so you can make the top reading pane larger and the bottom smaller, if you like.
Split Screen

Google scholar

You're reading along in your nifty split window, when you come across a parenthetical citation, but it's not in the references list. What now?

Praise Google, that’s what. Google Scholar has saved me more time than I ever would have admitted to my college students.

Go to, type in a least one author's last name, a year if you have it, maybe the topic of the paper you’re looking for, and viola! 99% Google will know which article you’re looking for, pull up a link, and offer to format the citation for you. Even if you can’t get free access to the article, Google is usually still able to gather enough info to cite the article for you, in MLA, APA, or Chicago style. Plus, have Google plop the reference info into your software of choice, EndNote or whatever.


If it's a book you're looking for, just use good ol' Google, which will likely pull up either a Google Books reference or an link, both of which should have the publication information you need.

3. Find and replace

This is an old-school trick, but people often forget about find and replace. If you use a word or phrase throughout the paper, and you want to make sure it's identical across every instance, find and replace will be your best friend. Maybe you aren't sure whether you wrote “Big Five personality trait” instead of “big five personality trait” or “JPMorgan” instead of “JP Morgan.”

Whatever the case, hold down the control key (or command for Macs) and hit the “F” key. In the sidebar will pop up two blanks:
“Search document”
“Replace with”
You want to search the document for all the possible ways you could have screwed up the word or phrase and replace with the correct one. Hit replace, and done! Easy.

Find and Replace

4. Zoom out

Before you submit, you'll want to make sure that all of your headings and sub-headings are consistent (ie, maybe your headings are bold and left-aligned, while your sub-headings are italicized and indented), that all of the pages are correctly numbered, that you don't have a blank page stuck in the middle of the document, and that each of the paragraphs spills over onto the next page in a way that makes sense (ie, you don't want one word hanging on the next page).

The hard way to check? Leave your view zoomed in at 125% and hit page down over and over, trying to quickly skim. The problem is that your eyes are probably going to glide over errors, and its' hard to keep track of page numbers as you scroll.

The easy way to check? Hold on to your hats… zoom out so that you can see the entirety of two pages at once. You'll be able to check consistent headings and sub-headings, make sure the spaces between paragraphs are correct, catch any one-liner hangovers, and look at page numbers. Awesome, right?!

At the top toolbar, select “View,” click “zoom” and select the option to see TWO pages at once, not just one. Like so:

Zoom out1

Zoom Out2

I hope these four hacks help you when you're formatting your next paper.

Let me know if you have any hacks or tricks of your own? Leave a comment below!

FREE QUIZ: Which "Publishing Path" Is Right For Your Book?

There are four different publishing paths for the modern author.
Do you know which is right for your book?