Why you’ve got to able to use Microsoft Office

image This post/rant started off as a comment on Richard Bailey’s blog, in response to a comment by Heather Yaxley. However, I thought it was worthy of promoting to a full post:

Heather said:

One final thought is that we may need to teach basic skills too. I’m constantly surprised by the lack of real ability many PRs have with Word, Excel and other software programs that were once taught and now are an expectation.

Indeed, I was stunned when using some little keyboard shortcuts with PowerPoint that my class stopped me and asked me to show them what I was doing.

It may all be in the help function – but not everyone knows the potential or bothers to find out. That’s true of social/new media too.

My response was:

I’m going to pick up on Heather’s point about people’s ability to use (or rather not use) Microsoft Office. Put aside anti-Microsoft prejudices and accept it is what most students will have to use, as interns or when they start work.

But most, despite listing it on their CVs can’t even use Word. They might be able to type something, but most don’t have a clue about using even basic facilities such as styles, setting tabs correctly (NOT pressing the tab key five times!), numbering etc.

When several people are working on the same document it is essential these features are used correctly, or it becomes a nightmare to edit and format.

The help facilities in Office are so extensive that there really is no excuse for not understanding those basic features.

So does anybody have any ideas why people don’t bother to use even simple things like styles? I’ve seen people laboriously wade through a 40 page document meticulously formatting and numbering each individual heading (the Format Painter tool is news to some). In the time they’ve wasted doing this they could easily have read the help pages and started doing it properly. The most frequent excuse I hear ‘I don’t have time, there is a deadline’ doesn’t wash more than once.

It will only to take an hour or so one night or weekend and you can become a Word ninja.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.