Learn the lingo: A tip for managers

If you're a senior executive, you might not use Word all day long, but your people do. And you have to talk with your staff about Word documents.

Here's some useful terminology.


A template is not a document that you use to fill in a form. Nor is a template a commonly-used form of words.

  • In Microsoft Word, a "template" is a specific kind of file. It has a different internal file structure from a Word document file.
  • If a file name ends in .doc, .docx or .docm, it's not a template, it's a document. A template's file name ends in .dot or (in Word 2007 and Word 2010) .dotx or .dotm.
  • A template's file structure can store things that a document cannot store. A template can have AutoTexts and (in Word 2007 and Word 2010) other kinds of Building Blocks. A document cannot.
  • Create a template by doing File > New and choosing to create a template. Or, do File > Save As, and save an existing document as a template.
  • Use a template by doing File > New and choosing the template.

More info:

Creating a Template – The Basics (Part I)

What do Templates and Add-ins store?

What is the relationship between a Microsoft Word document and its template?

Be nice to your staff: Avoid confusing your staff by talking about a 'template' when you really mean something else.

Be nice to your staff: Get a professional to create the basic templates your business needs, and expect your users to use them.

Heading, header, footer, footnote

Useful terminology:

  • A heading is a paragraph, often large and bold, that introduces some text.
  • A header is text that repeats at the top of every page.
  • A footer is text that repeats at the bottom of every page, like a page number.
  • A footnote is a numbered note placed at the bottom of the page above the footer. They are used more in academic work than in business.


"Section" is a technical term in Word.

Every document has at least one section. A document with more than one section has a section break between the sections. Look at the status bar to see which section you're in. (In Word 2007 and Word 2010, if you can't see something like "Section: 1" then right-click the status bar and in the Customize Status Bar menu, click Section.)

Among other things, a section controls headers and footers and page orientation. So when you want to change from portrait to landscape, you need a new section. When you want to change back to portrait, you need a new section.

Pages don't have headers or footers or page numbers; sections do

Page numbers in Word documents live in a header or a footer. A header or a footer might also contain other stuff: logos, watermarks, text such as the title of the document etc.

Headers and footers are properties of a section.

Each section has up to 6 headers and footers. A section may display

  • a first page header and/or footer
  • an even pages header and/or footer
  • an odd pages header and/or footer.

To control which of the three headers and footers display in any one section:

  • Before Word 2007: File > Page Setup
  • In Word 2007 or Word 2010: Page Layout > Page Setup. Click the little arrow in the bottom right corner of the Page Setup group.

Be nice to your staff: Avoid asking for a special footer on one page in the middle of a document. To do so, your staff will have to create a separate section for just that page. And, the author will have to re-arrange the section breaks whenever material is added to or deleted from the document.

Be nice to your staff: Don't ask people to create silly page numbering (eg repeating a page number, or having a different format for different parts of the document).

Be nice to your staff: In the days when typesetters used little bits of metal type, it made sense to number pages in the front matter with roman numerals. The front matter was created and paginated after the body of the document was created. In the era of the PC, that makes no sense to me at all. Just number a document from page 1 to page n. In the 21st century, I can't see any justification for any other kind of page numbering.


Macros are used to automate Word. A macro is code written in a programming language called Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBA is built in to Word. VBA is derived from Visual Basic 6 (VB6) and closely related to VB Script.

You can't see a macro by looking at the face of the document.

Macros are stored in a special part of the file that is hidden from the ordinary user. You can only see a macro by doing Alt-F11 and viewing the code.

Macros are not the same as fields. If you're coming from WordPerfect, then what you currently know as a "macro" is not a macro in Word.

Macros are used to help users conform to corporate standards, and to improve user productivity by automating repetitive tasks.

Macros can be stored in documents, but it is generally better practice to store them in a template.

A single macro might be 3 lines long, like this one:

Sub PrintMyDocument


End Sub

Or, a collection of macros might be thousands of lines long. (You wouldn't write one single macro that was thousands of lines long; you'd chop it up into smaller bits and call one macro from another.)

Macros can do very complex things: talk to external databases, create new files, format a document, give users a wizard to walk them through complex operations and so on.