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Writing a book with Office—how Maxie McCoy does it

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We recently caught up with inspirational writer, speaker and millennial expert Maxie McCoy, who’s a self-professed Office enthusiast (“I live in Office. Always. Period.” )—to get her take on Researcher and Editor, two new cloud-powered services designed to help you do your best writing in Word. Both features are exclusive to Office 365.

writing-a-book-with-office-1“I’ve always loved to write,” Maxie explains. “My parents have ‘books’ of my writing I created as a young kid where I wrote about all the things I wanted to grow up and be (not sure any of those included being a writer!). However, the moment I first saw myself as a ‘writer’ was during a long-form, magazine writing class in college. I noticed how much gratification I got in nailing a perfect transition or putting together two words to describe exactly the feeling I hoped to communicate. It was clear to me then that not only did I have a knack for this style of communication, it brought me immense joy. That has continued to be a guiding tenant in my life: pay attention to what energizes you and follow it.”

Maxie spends a lot of time in Word writing blog posts and articles for a variety of websites. Currently, she’s finessing a book proposal for her agent to pitch to publishers—a book to help millennials learn how to uncover their passions, get ahead in their careers, and essentially, live their best lives.

“When I’m on the road speaking to individuals, their ideas and obstacles motivate me. When I’m home in San Francisco I find so much inspiration from the world around me and the everyday conversations I have with gal pals, coworkers, and mentors. If you take the time to look up and open up, you’ll find the motivation you need.”

It’s no surprise she was curious to see how she could put Researcher and Editor to use for her book project. We developed Researcher to help make it easier to get to a first draft. You can explore reliable sources and add content into your documents—with properly-formatted citations—right within Word. Researcher taps into Bing so you can access the content you need on more than 1 billion people, places and things on the web.

When she saw what Researcher could do, Maxie was in awe. “Wait! Where was this in college???” she laughs. “I was just thinking about all the stuff I write—if it’s not working on the book, it’s writing multiple posts per week for different sites. I always try to credit the research that I’m pulling in. With Researcher, it’s like it’s all right there for me.”

“If you’re writing for the web, you just hyperlink your source because that’s how it works on blog posts and various digital sites. But then when you move back to longer form writing, whether it’s a proposal or a release, or what is going to be a book, I couldn’t tell you how to cite something appropriately. That’s where Researcher can save the day.”

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While Researcher helps you get started, Editor helps with those finishing touches by providing advanced proofing and editing capabilities. It combines natural language processing with machine learning to make recommendations on your writing style so you can communicate more effectively. Editor flags complex words or unclear phrases and offers suggestions to make your writing stronger. For example, Editor may recommend you use “most” instead of “the majority of” (in that literary masterpiece you’re almost finished with).

For Maxie, one struggle is figuring out how to keep the right nuances or voice on each website she writes for, while being efficient with her words. “I go from site to site and there’s a different voice for each website. Editor can provide recommendations on being much more concise when I need it. That might be good for a post that I’m doing for Huffington Post versus something I’m doing for my own website.” Editor also suggests synonyms for words used too frequently, to add variety to her different writings.

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“Researcher and Editor are so intuitive and smart,” she says. “For people who didn’t memorize all those grammar rules in Journalism school, I can imagine these features being very helpful. They’re allowing you to use your focus and your energy where you’re best optimized, while leaving all that other stuff like a bibliography and having to worry about which word to choose to Researcher and Editor. It keeps your energy in the right place—which is [thinking] creatively—or making a really thoughtful point.”

You don’t have to write for a living like Maxie to use Researcher and Editor. They’re there to help anyone communicate more effectively, more easily. And both features are designed to get better with time. Researcher will soon include sources like well-known encyclopedias and history databases and will be available on mobile devices. Editor will continue to improve its current spelling and grammar tools so you can spend your creative time being just that—creative.

We were wondering what Maxie’s next big project was after her book was published.

“The big sky vision is a global media company,” she said. “I’m so jazzed to be making progress on the book journey but I also love love love video (I have a background in broadcasting). I’m putting my attention towards bringing something fresh to wider audiences. I think when we can know what energizes us (like writing and speaking do for me) we can find peace in knowing what we see for ourselves without knowing exactly how it’ll get done. I’m all about trusting the process!”

Many thanks to Maxie for taking a look at our brand-new features in Word. She’s an up-and-coming powerhouse who shares our goal of helping people do and be their best. In the months ahead, keep an eye out for her as she travels around the world on her speaking and teaching gigs, and watch for her upcoming book, too.

Both Researcher and Editor are available right now for Office 365 subscribers using Word 2016 on Windows desktops. Look for mobile versions to be added soon.

—Maxie McCoy’s time is valuable, so we’ve compensated her for taking the time to share her story.

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12 comments
  1. When writing a book in Word, it is important to keep in mind accessibility for people who have disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia or other issues. It would be good to point out that in addition to Editor and Researcher tools, Word has the ability to specify “Alt Text” which makes a description of pictures or graphics for people who need to use screen readers or other assistive technologies. Likewise, using Word’s heading styles (instead of simply applying formatting), is an important consideration for allowing people using assistive technology to navigate your book’s structure, regardless of their ability to see the formatting.

    • I should have noted in my comment: These accessibility items are critical if you distribute the book in an electronic format, such as Word, PDF or ePub. These features do not assist people with print-related disabilities if the book is only available in print.

    • Thank you SO much for giving this reminder! As I was reading the post, I kept wondering about accessibility! I am looking forward to trying out these new tools, see where they could support my various writing projects, and test out how they do – or do not – support creating accessible materials.

  2. Don’t want to be picky, but I doubt that she meant to say “guiding tenant” instead of
    “guiding tenet.”

    • I was thinking the same thing! I wondered whether she wrote that, or the author of this article wrote it.

      • Maybe they forgot to run the article through “Editor”. Or maybe “Editor” is not able to detect those types of grammatical errors. Nothing and no one edits like a well-read individual who knows the difference between “led” and “lead”.

    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one who was bothered by that!

    • We are a tough crowd! I was preparing an eviction notice for the misplaced tenant, but as Maxie was enjoying the guidance it offered, I just engaged my auto-translation function, installed years ago by my 8th grade “Language” teacher! Somehow it took me to George Tenet, and I quickly hit ‘delete’, to avoid flagging the CIA!

  3. Whither Researcher and Editor for Mac, or is this to remain a Windows-only feature of Office 365?

  4. Is it better to write a book in Word or Publisher or ?
    Is there a good template for book writing?
    I used to have one for Word Perfect, looooong time ago.
    I can’t seem to find anything similar to the WP template in Word.
    Any help would be great.

    And, y’all would be great editors! 😉

    • Don’t use publisher for anything except creating print material. And please, never use for websites, which some people do.

      The two programmes for book writing are OneNote and Word.

      I use OneNote constantly for planning, taking notes, setting out plots – everything. It is the electronic equivalent of a pile of paper, but better organised. I love it.

      With Word, just search for book manuscript in templates – there are a couple out there. Or make your own. It is easy enough.

      Just set “Normal” font to something like Garamond and modify the paragraph for double spacing. Set first line indent at something like 0.6.

      Use Heading 1 for all your chapter headings and modify that style so that it adds a pagebreak before automatically.

      Go to the View tab and switch on Navigation Pane whch will keep track of your headings on the left (invaluable).

      If you are on office 365, join the Office Insiders programme to get all the new editing tools. They are very useful. Once you do, go to File > Options and under proofing, scroll down a little and set Writing Style to Grammar & More. Click on settings and you can customise what it flags and also select it to recognise double space after a period.

      Does that all help? Have fun!

  5. Please, when you come up with new technology, always keep in mind the Blind and the Deaf. The Blind needs voice and the Deaf needs caption. Technically it’s what makes us feel normal and not left out. Thank you for making our lives much easier.
    I can’t wait to use Researcher and Editor!!! : )

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