EazyPaper manWrite your EazyPaper September 2012

Welcome back to school! Just like most of you, the Write your EazyPaper monthly newsletter took a break over the summer, but continues on for another academic year. Professor Randy Wollf and Michael Hu have been writing about general writing tips and Word's page layout features respectively in the Spring series of the newsletter. They continue their series here.

Getting in the Right Space

by Professor Randy

Last fall, I wrote a series of articles on tips for getting an A on your next paper. Starting this month, I will revisit some of those tips and expand on them.

Professional writers talk about getting in the right “space” for writing. For many of us, writing is kind of like the water that comes out of a tap. Sometimes the tap is turned on and the words flow quickly from our minds to our hands to the computer screen. Other times, internal and external forces reduce the flow to a trickle or stop it altogether.

Our bodies and minds go through rhythms and it is important to understand those rhythms when it comes to effective writing. For example, I am a morning person and so my best writing often occurs before 10:00 am. My mind is usually pretty sluggish and not overly creative in the afternoons. Yet, I have found that I can sometimes reboot my mind by going for a 30-minute cardiovascular workout during my lunch hour. It is important that we understand our body rhythms so that we schedule our writing when we are most likely to have energy for creative output.

I also find that my physical environment sometimes affects my mood and motivation for writing. The other day I was doing some research for an article on values-based leadership. I took my laptop onto our deck which overlooks a small creek. I love being in nature and found that my deck space helped to energize me for the research I had to do. Some people need to be in social spaces like a coffee shop or student lounge in order to stay focused on their writing. The key is to find what kind of spaces work for you and to use them whenever you need to write.

Some people write well under pressure while others feel paralyzed when deadlines loom just around the corner. If stress and creativity do not mix well for you, it is important that you work ahead on your written assignments. You may want to set artificial deadlines a week before the actual due dates to help you stay on track.

Even the most disciplined students will sometimes pull “all-nighters” or at least have to get up early to finish a written assignment. When you are working feverishly to complete assignments, I would encourage you to take stress breaks. It could be a 10-minute chat with a friend or a 30-minute jog around campus. These kinds of breaks can refresh your mind and help you re-engage your writing with renewed energy and creativity.

Getting in the right “space” for writing will not only help you finish your writing projects on time, but will help you write to the best of your ability.

Specialized Page Layout

by Michael Hu

Last Fall's series covered the page layout features needed for academic writing, but Word has a far greater range than just academic writing. So in the interests of completion, as well as in the realization that you will eventually graduate and write non-academic documents, I'll cover some of Word's more specialized Page Layout features.

The important thing about these features is not just knowing that they exist, or how to use them, but when and why to use them. Word then becomes a collection of tools in your writing and desktop publishing toolbox. It's not the only tool, or even best tool to use for all writing tasks, but knowing its range, strengths, and limitations will help you decide when to pick up Word, or another tool depending on the task at hand. Picking the right tool for the task will improve your product and productivity, both now in your academic career, and beyond.


The first specialized page layout feature I would like to discuss in this series is the one a typical student is most likely to use: adjusting the page margins. Page margins are the white space between the edge of a page and the text. AMA, APA, MLA, and Turabian all specify 1" page margins, which is the default for Microsoft Word. Thus, you shouldn't change the defaults for your academic papers, but there are always exceptions.

For example, say you have to write a 10 page paper, but your text ends up being 9 pages, and you can't (or don't have the time) to write anything else. If you make the page margins 1.1" rather than just 1", you may get to 10 pages without your professor knowing the difference. The reverse case is more common: say you have to write an executive summary that fits on one page. Decreasing the page margins can help you fit your summary on one page.

To adjust the page margins, just click the Margins button on the Page Layout tab, and select your desired margin template as shown in Figure 1:

how to adjust the margins

Figure 1: How to adjust the margins

Margins affect the presentation and quantity of text you can fit on a page. A proper balance between whitespace and text makes your document easier and more pleasant to read.

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