Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Overcoming Automatic Word Selection.

Overcoming Automatic Word Selection

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 26, 2017)

8

Word includes a feature designed to help you select text faster and easier. When you click and drag to select text, Word assumes that if you move the mouse beyond the beginning or end of the current word, you want to start selecting by words. How you turn this capability on and off has been discussed in other issues of WordTips.

Normally this editing feature is quite helpful, but at other times it may complicate exactly what you want to do. For instance, you may want to select the text from the middle of one word to the middle of another. Granted, you could turn off the automatic word selection feature, but that gets bothersome.

Fortunately, by using a little mouse know-how you can inform Word that you only want to select absolute text instead of entire words. As you are moving the mouse, take a look at the behavior of the selection. When the selection jumps out to include the portion of the word you did not want, back up a bit. This causes the selection to shrink to where your cursor is. This works whether you are selecting forwards or backwards in the text.

As an example, imagine you have a sentence "The underwater world is exciting," and want to change it to "The undersea habitat is inviting." You can try to select "water world is exc". If you start at "water", when you drag the selection across to "world" you find the selection increases to include "underwater world."

If you move your cursor backward to the start of "world," you'll notice that the selection shrinks back to just "water." In other words, it includes only that part of the text you originally started to select. Now you can move your mouse cursor forward to select the rest of your text, as desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12435) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Overcoming Automatic Word Selection.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments

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What is 9 + 6?

2015-10-19 10:50:01

Judy Macdonald

That is really handy; love it.


2013-01-16 00:17:31

K.Vee.Shanker.

Useful tip. Thanks Allen!

The Alt has to be pressed before clicking for selection for Word 2007. Otherwise, it doesn't work as intended.


2013-01-15 06:40:49

Heather

It's a shame the ALT option is not better know. I find this really useful for copying columns out of tabulated text (that has not been put into a table).


2013-01-14 12:02:15

Juan

Fantastic, Allen, also the ALT tip works perfectly. Thanks a lot!


2013-01-14 11:57:49

Ciaran

Precise selection can also be done by clicking where you want to start the selection, hold down the shift key, and click on the end point. Word selects precisely what you highlight regardless of whether whole words have been selected.


2013-01-14 09:27:43

Ric Glines

Another method you can use is to hold down the Alt key while moving your mouse. In this way, you don't even have to perform the "backing up" step described in the article. (By the way, you can also use the Alt key method to select any rectangle of text spanning multiple lines.)

A funny artifact of this Alt key method, at least in Word 2010, is that your selections remain highlighted until you make Word redraw the selected text by scrolling up and down.


2013-01-13 09:53:08

Dave Roberts

That is sweet. I had a macro that did the toggled word selection but this is easier yet. Thanks.


2013-01-12 02:33:57

Greta Tiffin

Allen, you are *awesome*. Thank you


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