Spelling tips

Get more from Office 365

If you experience difficulties with motor skills, reading, listening, comprehension and maintaining focus, every assignment can feel like a mountain to climb.

Your university can offer many useful resources for improving and developing these skills such as online guides, courses and workshops but there’s a set of tools already at your fingertips.

You’re probably already familiar with Office 365 and its suite of productivity apps, but are you using them to their full potential? There are many features built-in that you can customise to create and consume documents faster and more efficiently.

To save you time exploring all the options, the experts at Ultima Education share six of their favourite (and free) Office 365 features that help with reading, writing, spelling, presenting, notetaking and getting organised. 

MS To Do is a task management app that allows you to keep on top of whatever you have to do, wherever you are. Everything can be organised quickly and easily, and your assignment deadlines can live happily alongside your shopping lists. Simply set up your categories, drag tasks to re-order them and add details such as reminders, due dates and supporting files. If you have a larger project to tackle, you can also add steps here, breaking it down into bite-size sections. 

You may already use OneNote to take notes in lectures, but a feature that’s often overlooked is the ability to record audio at the same time to ensure you never miss a thing. What makes this especially useful, is that the program automatically syncs with your notetaking so you can play back a specific point just by selecting a section of your notes. You are then free to concentrate on actively listening and taking your own notes which further aids your understanding.

Find out more about how tech can take the stress out of notetaking.

If you struggle with concentration and think faster than you can write, MS Word Dictation can help. This function creates content with your voice so you can get down your ideas quickly and easily. It’s simple to get started and you can edit, format, add punctuation and comments all while dictating. Your transcribed text can then be used to create essays, presentations and coursework.

Discover more dictation software options with our comprehensive guide. 

Another quick win in Word is Read Mode which changes the document layout for a more comfortable reading experience. Read Mode automatically fits the page layout to your device, opening full screen in a landscape format which is ideal for absorbing long documents. When you read in this view, you get fewer distractions from menus so you can remain focused on the text itself. You can also make changes to the page colour, text size and brightness to suit you.  

One aspect of essay writing that can feel a bit intimidating, is correctly recording your source materials to avoid plagiarism. Luckily, MS Word makes this easy with their referencing tool which automatically formats in-text citations and generates a reference list. To add a citation, position the cursor at the point in your text where you want to reference something and click Insert Citation. Once you’ve added all the sources, you can use the tool to create a bibliography. 

After all that effort, you want to present a polished piece of work which is where Presenter Coach in PowerPoint comes in. Having to showcase your work in front of your peers can be daunting, but Presenter Coach gives you all the skills you need to confidently deliver an impactful presentation. This feature allows you to rehearse your presentation whilst getting real-time feedback and guidance on your pacing, recommendations of inclusive language and even letting you know if you’re using too many filler words. At the end, you’ll get a summary so you can see how you performed and advice for making improvements. 

If you have a disability, long term health condition, specific learning difficulty or mental health condition that affects your studies, you can access a package of support including specialist software that’s tailored to your specific needs. Jump to our guide to see if you are eligible for the Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA). 

Get in touch with us today to see what support you could receive through the DSA.

Smash your spelling


Do you struggle with spelling? Do you think of the perfect word to express what you are trying to write about, but then think there’s no way you’ll be able to spell it correctly and so choose something less suphistacated sofistacated sophastikated good?

Students eligible for the DSA could receive funding for more comprehensive spelling and grammar checking applications such as Global AutoCorrect or Medincle, but here are 3 quick, free and easy alternatives to wrestling with the Word spellchecker or putting up with Google’s passive aggressive ‘did you mean…?’

1. Whip out your phone, say ‘Ok Google’ (for Android) or ‘Hey Siri’ (for iPhones) and then just say ‘spell’ followed by whatever the word you’re struggling with’. Your phone should display it on the screen and read out a letter spelling.

2. If you are using Microsoft Office 365 (usually provided by your school or university), use the Dictate feature in Microsoft Word (look for it on the Home menu in Word) to allow you to say a word aloud and have it transcribed straight into your document. Just click the Dictate button, wait a second until you hear a sound or see a microphone icon in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, and then just say the word. Don’t have Microsoft Word? Google docs has the same feature – open a doc and click on the Tools menu, then select voice typing. Click on the microphone that pops up and say the word.

3. What about words that you are not sure how to pronounce though? Or if you are not working somewhere where you can start calling out random words? In that case, you might want to try a free program called WordWeb. With this, you can type a word that you know how to spell and then use synonym list in WordWeb to show you a load of other words which mean the same thing (just select the word you have written and hit the hotkey combination Ctrl+Alt+W). Not sure if a word means what you want? Double-click on it and get a definition, plus the option to hear it being read aloud to you.