When you write to make money, maximizing your productivity is essential. By focusing as much as possible on your core tasks, you’ll be able to improve the quality of your thought processes and work, and you’ll also improve your credibility as a conscientious freelancer (or employee) who doesn’t stretch his or her hours to inflate the invoice.
There are, of course, a myriad of strategies you can adopt, such as quitting multitasking, planning and prioritizing, and eating breakfast; but during the day, it’s equally important not to get bogged down while simply navigating through your software. And no copywriter or editor worth his or her weight in words goes into battle without their arsenal of trusty shortcuts! Learning and getting used to the basic shortcuts in your word processor will shave off a considerable amount of time as you work, so much so that I guarantee you’ll be surprised (if you don’t already use these) and will find it impossible to go back to using your mouse for every action. If you take anything from this article, let it be the Ctrl movement shortcuts. I love them, and you will, too.
The following shortcuts are tailored to Microsoft Word on Windows, since that’s what I use. Most can be replicated on a Mac by replacing ‘Ctrl’ with ‘Command’ or ‘Option,’ as I will note. Many of these will also work in other word processing environments on the computer and the web. Experiment!
It should go without saying – but I’ll say it! – that you should be pressing Ctrl+s (Command+s on Mac) to save your work frequently. I mean every-time-you-finish-writing-a-sentence frequently. Once you make this a habit, power outages, dead batteries, and crashing programs won’t get as much as a flinch out of you anymore. It may even be in your best interest to work inside your Dropbox until delivery if your hard drive isn’t in the best shape.
Before we go any deeper, you should know and be comfortable with the following shortcuts.
- Ctrl+x – Cut
- Ctrl+c – Copy
- Ctrl+v – Paste
- Shift+Arrow key – Select text in a direction
- Ctrl+b – Bold
- Ctrl+i – Italic
- Ctrl+u – Underline
Far and away, this is my favorite general shortcut, and it works on nearly any word processing app, from Notepad to WordPress. Simply hold Ctrl and press any of the following keys to turn them into “super” keys, performing their typical actions at the next highest level. This is extremely useful when maneuvering through paragraphs while editing, eliminating the need to reach for the mouse. (Mac users – replace Ctrl with Option).
- Ctrl+Arrow key left or right – Move to the beginning or end of the word
- Ctrl+Arrow key up or down – Move to the beginning or end of the paragraph
- Ctrl+Delete or Backspace – Delete one whole word (Mac users can replicate the Windows “forward delete” with Fn-Delete)
- Ctrl+Shift+Arrow key left or right – Select to the beginning or end of the word
- Ctrl+Shift+Arrow key up or down – Select to the beginning or end of the paragraph
- Mac users can use Command+Arrow key left or right for Home or End
- Mac users can use Command+Arrow key up or down to go to the beginning or end of a document
Accents and special characters (Microsoft Word only)
Knowing shortcuts for accented letters can save you a wealth of time when working on projects where diacritics abound. Luckily, the shortcut system for creating accented letters in Windows is intuitive and satisfying. Unfortunately, it’s less so on Word for Mac, but the simple formula is the same.
During the first step, hold Ctrl and tap the key which most closely resembles the diacritic you want. Next, release and type the letter you want. You can even hold shift to get accented capital letters. For example, if you wanted to type à, you would hold Ctrl, tap
, release, and tap 'a' to complete the process. Here is the formula, along with a guide for some of the more common diacritical marks:
- Ctrl+[Accent approximation] (Command+[Accent] on Mac)
- Let go
- Note: You will have to hold shift to get to the tilde, carrot, and colon.
- Acute - ' (apostrophe) (e on Mac)
- Grave - (grave/tilde key)
- Tilde – ~ (n on Mac)
- Circumflex – ^ (i on Mac)
- Cedilla – , (c on Mac)
- Umlaut – : (u on Mac)
A couple other tricks:
- Ctrl+Alt+r – ®
- Ctrl+Alt+c – ©
- Ctrl+Alt+t – ™
And finally, here are some simple and frequently used formatting shortcuts.
- Ctrl+Space – Remove formatting on a selection
- Shift+F3 – Change capitalization (Opt+Command+c on Mac)
- Ctrl+’+’ – Subscript
- Ctrl+Shift+’+’ – Superscript
That’s it for my arsenal of shortcuts! There are many more you can learn, of course. If you want to familiarize yourself with numerous others, and for all sorts of applications, such as writing, managing windows, browsing the web, dealing with tabs, and so on, go here. It organizes all the shortcuts by type and by OS, including Windows, Mac OS, KDE, GNOME, and Emacs.