Selecting text in Word (a few lesser-known methods)

March 16, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Selecting text – an essential step before applying character formatting (bolding, italics, underlining) or before cutting / copying several words, sentences, or paragraphs – can be surprisingly tricky.  As a longtime legal word processor, I am notoriously bad at using the mouse for such purposes.  It could be that I simply lack manual dexterity, or maybe it’s because I rely heavily on keyboard shortcuts, which let me perform these types of tasks quickly and, with my hands still on the keys, resume typing immediately afterwards.

In any case, you’re not limited to selecting text by clicking and dragging the mouse. This post covers a few less well-known, but very handy, methods for selecting text in Microsoft Word with great precision and speed.  Try them and see which ones work best for you.[1]

SELECTING TEXT – WITH THE MOUSE

Select an Entire Document With the Mouse

Most people are familiar with the keyboard shortcut for selecting an entire document (Ctrl A), but might not know how to accomplish the same task with the mouse.  Just position your cursor somewhere in the left margin, then triple (left) click.

Select an Entire Word, Sentence, or Paragraph With the Mouse

To select a word, double-click within that word.

To select a sentence, press and hold the Ctrl key and left click within the sentence.

To select an entire paragraph, triple-click within the paragraph OR position your mouse pointer in the margin to the left of the paragraph and, when it turns into a white arrow, double-click.

Select an Irregular Block of Text With Click-Shift-Click

I call this method “Click-Shift-Click.”  It works particularly well if you are trying to select an irregularly shaped block of text (and it works in programs besides Word, including WordPerfect!).

First, left click at the beginning of the text you want to select.

Next, press and hold the Shift key.  (TIP:  The Shift key is the Selection key in Word [and in Windows generally], which means that you can select text in your document by pressing and holding Shift and then moving your cursor with the mouse or the keyboard.)

Finally, with the Shift key still depressed, left-click at the very end of the text.

If you accidentally select too much or too little text, keep the Shift key depressed and use the right or left arrow key to de-select or select text, as appropriate.

SELECTING TEXT – WITH THE KEYBOARD

Select an Entire Document With the Keyboard

As mentioned above, you can select an entire document by pressing Ctrl A (think of “All”).

Do be aware that Select All does not select the headers or footers — and, significantly, it might not select the footnotes in your document (if any) — which can be important if you are using Select All to copy and paste an entire document, including the headers, footers, and/or footnotes.  You might have to copy and paste these elements separately or else re-create them.

Select a Word, Sentence, or Paragraph With the Keyboard

To select one word at a time with the keyboard, place your cursor at the beginning of the word and press Ctrl Shift right arrow key.  (You can repeat these keystrokes to select additional words.)  Note that this method also selects the space after the word.  It does not select the punctuation following the word, however.

Alternatively, position your cursor in the word and press the F8 key twice.  IMPORTANT:  To stop selecting text, press the Esc key.

To select one sentence at a time with the keyboard, place your cursor within the sentence and press the F8 key three times.  IMPORTANT:  To stop selecting text, press the Esc key.

To select one paragraph at a time with the keyboard, place your cursor at the beginning of the paragraph and press Ctrl Shift down arrow key.  (You can repeat these keystrokes to select additional paragraphs.)

Alternatively, position your cursor in the paragraph and press the F8 key four times. IMPORTANT:  To stop selecting text, press the Esc key.

SELECTING PARTS OF A TABLE

Select an Entire Table

A very quick way to select an entire table using the mouse is to hover over the upper left-hand corner of the table until you see a plus sign.  Just left-click the plus sign to select the table.

(You can, of course, select the table by clicking the Select icon at the left side of the Layout portion of the Table Tools tab, then choosing Select Table OR by right-clicking within the table, hovering over Select, and choosing Table.)

To select an entire table using the keyboard, click in the table, then press Alt 5 (the number 5 on the Numeric Keypad) — if Num Lock is turned off.  If Num Lock is turned on, press Alt Shift 5 instead.

Select a Row

Perhaps the quickest way to select an entire row is to place the cursor in the margin to the left of the row and, when the mouse pointer turns into a white arrow, left click.

Once you’ve selected one row, you can select additional rows – whether contiguous or not – by pressing and holding the Ctrl key, then repeating the above steps for selecting a single row.

To select a row with the keyboard, position your cursor in the first cell of the row, then press the key combination Shift Alt End.

Of course, you also have the option of using the Select icon in the Layout portion of the Table Tools tab OR the right-click menu to select a row.

Select a Column

A very quick way to select an entire column is to place the cursor above the column and, when the mouse pointer turns into a black arrow, left click.

To select additional columns – whether contiguous or not – press and hold the Ctrl key, then repeat the above steps for selecting a single column.

To select a column with the mouse, place your cursor in the first cell of the column, then press the key combination Shift Alt Pg Dn.

Of course, you also have the option of using the Select icon in the Layout portion of the Table Tools tab OR the right-click menu to select a column.

Select a Cell

One of the easiest ways to select a single cell in the table is by positioning the mouse slightly to the left of the cell.  When you see a small black arrow, just left click.

After selecting one cell, you can select additional cells – whether contiguous or not – by pressing and holding the Ctrl key, then repeating the above steps for selecting a single cell.

Of course, you also have the option of using the Select icon in the Layout portion of the Table Tools tab OR the right-click menu to select a cell.

To select a cell with the keyboard, place your cursor in the cell, press and hold Shift, and press the right arrow key.

* * * * *

There are other ways to select text (and tables) in Word, but these are some of my favorite methods.  I hope they prove useful to you!

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[1]  The methods outlined in this post work in Word 2010; I believe they also work in Word 2007 and Word 2013 (and they might work in earlier versions as well), although I didn’t test in those versions while writing the post.

Entry filed under: Tips and Tricks. Tags: .

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