how to make and use keyboard shortcuts

You might have noticed that here at TCK Publishing, we’re big into productivity.

We’re just nuts about it. We’re always looking for new ways to write more, write faster, and eliminate distractions and interruptions from our work—and we like to share what we find with you folks at home.

Keyboard shortcuts are a fantastic way to speed up writing at a computer—or any kind of computer work.

And since there are hundreds of individual keyboard shortcut commands programmed into your PC or Mac, we’ve compiled a list of our top 27 keyboard shortcuts you can use to write your next project quicker and more efficiently.

Now, put finger to QWERTY… and begin!

How to Use This List

  1. Choose the shortcuts you’re actually going to use. Unless you’re some kind of savant (or a robot from the future!) memorizing the commands for all 27 of these keyboard shortcuts will take you quite a bit of time. In the meantime, choose four or five that will be the most useful in your day-to-day writing, and memorize them.
  2. Use the writing shortcuts often! These commands are meant to save you time and effort—and they can’t do that if you have to consult this list every time you want to use a shortcut. Using these shortcuts often in your work will build muscle memory, and allow you to use multiple commands automatically, saving you time and headache.

27 Great Keyboard Shortcuts for Writing and Editing

Editor’s Note: The commands on this list are for PCs, but almost all of them have equivalent keystrokes on Macs; simply substitute the ⌘ key for CTRL and the command should work as advertised.

1. CTRL + A: Select all

A favorite of mine for editing huge blocks of text. If you want to copy the entirety of a document, or change its typeface or font size, this is infinitely quicker than click-dragging your cursor across a 7-page document.

2. CTRL + C: Copy

Copies the selected item to your clipboard.

3. CTRL + X: Cut

Deletes the selected item from the text while copying it to your clipboard. Useful for moving things around on a document, instead of click-dragging.

4. CTRL + V: Paste

Inserts the copied item from your clipboard. Text will be inserted in its original format.

5. CTRL + F: Find

Opens a tab that allows you to search for any instance of a word or phrase in your document. You can also use this tab to replace any instance of this word or phrase with something else. I use this for finding and replacing “crutch words”—words and phrases I rely on too much in my writing.

6. CTRL + P: Print

Quick-prints whatever document you’re working on using your default settings.

7. CTRL + F2: Print preview

Opens a preview of your printed document and allows you to change your print settings before you pull the trigger.

8. CTRL + S: Save

Do. This. Often. No sense losing hours of work to a power surge or unexpected crash just because you forgot to save—and with a keyboard shortcut, it’s never been simpler!

9. F12: Save As

Save a new version of your document under a new name.

10. CTRL + Z: Undo

Erases the last change made to your document. Entering the command multiple times will erase multiple changes in the reverse order of which they were made.

11. CTRL + Y: Redo

Reinstates a change erased by the Undo command. Entering the command multiple times will reinsert multiple changes in the order in which they were made, until there are no more changes left “undid.”

12. CTRL + B: Bold

Bolds selected text, or un-bolds text that is already bold.

13. CTRL + I: Italics

Italicizes selected text, or removes italics from italicized text.

14. CTRL + U: Underline

Underline, or removes underline from, selected text.

15. CTRL + L: Left-justify

Left-aligns selected text or images, or whatever paragraph your cursor is currently on.

16. CTRL + E: Center-justify

Centers selected text or images, or whatever paragraph your cursor is currently on.

17. CTRL + R: Right-justify

Right-aligns selected text or images, or whatever paragraph your cursor is currently on.

18. CTRL + J: Justify

Distributes selected text and images evenly between the margins, giving your document crisp, clean edges.

19. CTRL + N: New

Opens a new document. Also opens a new web page.

20. CTRL + SHIFT + MINUS: En-dash

Inserts an en-dash (the shorter dash used in ranges of numbers or dates, like this: 200­0­–2018). Note: this only works when you’re using the minus sign on a numeric keypad, not the minus on a laptop’s number bar.

21. CTRL + ALT + MINUS: Em-dash

Inserts an em-dash (the longer dash used to separate phrases—like this). Note: this only works when you’re using the minus sign on a numeric keypad, not the minus on a laptop’s number bar.

22. CTRL + ALT + C: ©

Inserts a copyright symbol.

23. CTRL + ALT + T: ™

Inserts a trademark symbol.

24. CTRL + ALT + R: ®

Inserts a registered trademark symbol.

25. CTRL + ALT + E: €

Inserts a euro symbol.

26. CTRL + ALT + F: Footnote

Inserts a footnote at the bottom of the page, linked to the word your cursor was currently nearest to.

27. CTRL + ALT + H: Highlight

Highlights selected item.

Make Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts

These 27 shortcuts are all great additions to any writer’s repertoire, but this list represents only the most commonly used key commands in your word processor’s toolbox. There are thousands of possible shortcut combinations available to you, including hundreds of insert-symbols.

Fortunately, Microsoft Word allows writers to make their own keyboard shortcuts for functions they use all the time, and even lets them substitute their own key commands for Word’s default combinations.

For instance: Say you’re writing a story where a bilingual character sprinkles Spanish words into their dialogue occasionally. You want to be able to easily insert tildes over your Ns, but the default command for this requires you to use an ALT key command—in this case, ALT + 165.

That’s a bit ungainly, especially if you’ll be using it often. But by customizing your keyboard shortcuts under the Options menu, you can find the Ñ symbol and choose a new combination of keystrokes to insert it.

And better yet, you can even choose to save this new keyboard command for just one document, making the setting “local” instead of “global.”

And so, to save you time and effort, here’s our step-by-step guide to making your own customized keyboard shortcuts on Microsoft Word.


  1. Click File, or enter the command ALT+F.
  2. Click Options, or press T, to open the Word Options Dialogue Box.

customize keyboard shortcut

3. Click Customize Ribbon to open the Customize the Ribbon and Keyboard Shortcuts Menu.

customize microsoft word shortcuts ribbon

4. Click Customize at the bottom of the dialogue box to open the Customize Keyboard dialogue box.

microsoft word custom settings

5. In the Categories box, select the appropriate category that contains the item or command you want to change. For instance, if you want to create a shortcut to insert a Ñ, scroll to the bottom and select Common Symbols.

6. In the Commands box (directly beside the Categories box), select the name of the command or item you want to change. If you’ve selected Common Symbols in the Categories box, a list of symbols to insert should appear in the Commands box. Scroll down until you find Ñ, and click it.

how to assign a custom keyboard shortcut

Assign a Keyboard Shortcut

To assign a new keyboard shortcut to a particular command, do the following:

  1. Position your cursor in the Press New Shortcut Key
  2. Enter the combination of keys you want to assign to your new shortcut by pressing them in order. Begin your shortcut with either CTRL, ⌘ (if you’re on a Mac), or a Function key.

Note: If the item or command you are customizing already has a keyboard shortcut assigned to it, that specific key combination will appear in the Current Keys box. If the keyboard shortcut you are attempting to enter is already assigned, choose something else.

  1. Click the pulldown tab marked Save Changes In, and choose whether you want to save your new keyboard shortcut for all your documents (click Normal) or just for your current document (click the name of your document).
  2. Click Assign in the lower left-hand corner of the dialogue box to complete assigning your keyboard shortcut.

Remove a Keyboard Shortcut

To remove a keyboard shortcut from a particular item or command, do the following:

  1. Click the pulldown tab marked Save Changes In, and select whether you want to remove the shortcut from all your documents (click Normal) or from the document you are currently working in (click the name of the document).
  2. Select the Current Keys The current keyboard shortcut or shortcuts for your item or command should appear there.
  3. Click the keyboard shortcut you would like to remove.
  4. Click Remove at the bottom left of the dialogue box to complete removing your keyboard shortcut.

Writing takes up enough time as it is—don’t make your work harder than it has to be by going the long way around. Use these keyboard shortcuts—along with the new ones you’ve customized—and you’ll be writing faster and more easily in no time!

And for more quick and easy tips for boosting your productivity, these articles are just what you need: