AutoFormat features are applied in order to improve the formatting, typography, and usability of a document. Among the changes that AutoFormat can make are:

Typographic changes

  • Quotation marks. When Word spots a standard (straight up-and-down) quotation mark, it will replace it with a smart quote--that is, a quotation mark that is curly, bending in towards the text it surrounds. The result is that your documents contain typographically-correct, more professional looking quotation marks.
  • Ordinals with superscript. When an ordinal, such as 1st, is found, Word formats it with superscript, so that it appears as 1st.
  • Fractions. If a fraction has an equivalent character, Word replaces it. For example, 1/2 will be replaced by ½. There are only a handful of fraction characters in a font, and if a fraction does not have an equivalent character it will not be changed. For example, 4/32 will remain 4/32.
  • Hyphens with a dash. If two consecutive hyphens are found, they are replaced by a typographically correct "m" dash. So -- becomes —. Similarly, hyphens used in a range, such as 8:00am - 4:00pm, will be replaced by a typographically correct "n" dash, 8:00am – 4:00pm.

Usability changes

  • Network addresses: If an e-mail, network or Web address is found, such as, Word will automatically create a hyperlink:

To help you apply formatting without using your mouse, and to help "fix" common user errors, Word also provides formatting assistance:

  • Bold and italics. If you type text surrounded by asterisks, it will be formatted as bold. If you type text surrounded by underscores, it will be formatted as italics. So *this* becomes this and _that_ becomes that.
  • Automatic borders. If you type a series of characters, such as === or --- or ___, Word will replace it with a horizontal border.
  • Automatic lists. If you type something that looks like the beginning of a list, Word will convert it into a bulleted or numbered list. For example:


    * This

    Becomes a bulleted list:

    • This

    And typing

    1. That


    1. That
  • Indents using Tab and Backspace. Using the Tab key to create indents is detrimental to working productively in Word. Paragraph formats should be used instead, specifically the left indent and first line or Special indent. Because many users do hit the Tab key, Word watches for it and replaces it with an indent format. The result is a correctly formatted document.



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