Good structure is key to the creation of any well designed teaching material. Word has simple inbuilt features which allow you to produce high quality, accessible, materials. Using these features will assist with the navigation of documents for all students.

Make use of heading styles provided within MS Word 

The use of the inbuilt “heading styles” within Microsoft Word can allow you to produce highly structured documents. Students using screen reading software will benefit hugely from well-structured material to allow efficient access. Software, such as JAWS (see section on screen reading software), can navigate through a document by accessing headings. So for example, using shortcut keys, a student could quickly navigate to the section of a module handbook with the heading “assignments”. If heading styles were not used, the student would need to read the document from the beginning to find the relevant section. Clearly this would be highly inefficient and laborious.

It is important to note that the only way to introduce headings into a document, is to use the style formatting available within MS Word. Increasing text size or introducing bold and underline, will not register text as a formatted heading. Please see methods of introducing headings below.

By including headings, you can get the opportunity so see an overview of your document using the navigation pane. This can be accessed under the “view” tab and selecting “navigation” within the “show” section. Viewing your document in this way allows you to see the overall structure of the document and by clicking on sections within it, you can navigate to that area of the document.

How to use heading styles 

Under the home tab there is a “Styles” section. Either you can highlight text and then click on the style of your choice, or you can click on the style and then type the text.

How to change heading styles

The default headings created in MS Word may not be as you would like. It is possible to change the settings of each style e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2 etc. To do this use the “styles” section under the home tab. Find the style you wish to edit, right click on it and select “modify”. From within this section you can edit what each “style” will look like.

Consider the spacing used within your document

Within MS Word, there are a number of formatting features which can assist you to efficiently map out your documents. Excessive use of line spacing using the return key can make reading difficult for students making use of screen reading software (click here to see section on screen reading software).

There are two simple ways to check and edit documents to ensure that efficient formatting has been used.

Use page breaks to move to a new page

There is often a desire to start a new topic on a fresh page. By pressing return multiple times, this can push text onto a new page. For students using screen reading software such as JAWS (click here to move to section on assistive software used by students) these spaces are read aloud as “blank line” (or different phrases dependent on software). In short, this can add extra time and unhelpful pauses in reading material.

One simple way of getting past this is to use a “page break” which is a pre-set formatting option in Word. This will move your text onto a new page, without the need for gaps or pauses in the text.

To insert a “page break” the option can be found under the “insert” tab on MS Word. Along the left hand side of the ribbon, there will be a “page break” option. Click on this to move to a new page without excess formatting.

Check formatting using the "show/hide" tool

The “show/hide” tool can be found in the paragraph section of the toolbar ribbon, under the home tab. It is represented with an icon depicting a pilcrow, or paragraph marker.

By clicking on this, all spacing and paragraph marking will be highlighted within the document, to allow you to check if you have used appropriate formatting.

To turn this check off, click on the icon once again.