Why Microsoft Word is one of the worst places to write for the web

write content word for the wb by chatgpt 2@2x

Image by ChatGPT

Writing content for the web demands the right tools.

Microsoft Word, while excellent for document creation, falls short for web writing.

Here’s why:

Microsoft Word is great at creating document files that you can share about and both consume and edit in Microsoft’s Word software - but I’m going to say it - crap for creating HTML for the web.

Overloaded HTML Code

  • Cluttered Code: Word’s HTML conversion is bloated with unnecessary styling and formatting tags. Frankly Word’s export or save to clean HTML is simply missing and the Save as Filtered HTML is a joke and has been for years. It’s staggering to me that Microsoft hasn’t solved this after all these years and adhered to universal web standards.
  • Impacts Web Design: This leads to cumbersome web design, and hard to maintain HTML code full of un-needed crap.

Inconsistent Formatting

  • Poor Translation: Word’s formatting options often don’t translate well to web platforms and creates bloated code that is hard to maintain once published to the web.
  • Layout Issues: This can result in inconsistent appearance and layout problems online.

Lack of Web-Specific Features

  • Designed for Print: Word lacks features tailored for web writing like SEO tools and easy image handling.

Alternatives for Web Writing

Ok - so writing content for the web in MS Word - bad. Writing in a web editor designed for the web - good. Let’s look at some options.

Plain Text Editors

  • Simplicity: Tools like Notepad, Apple’s TextEdit, or Sublime, etc offer a distraction-free writing environment.
  • Flexibility: Ideal for writing plain text, then use the web/post/cms editor to style the text when publishing online.

Markdown Editors

  • Efficiency: Markdown’s simple syntax is quick to learn for formatting text and there are a heap of free or cheap Markdown editors available such as Draft.
  • Compatibility: Easily converts to clean HTML for web platforms.

See this review of Markdown Editors by Hubspot

Software IDE’s

  • Powerful. Software IDE’s like Visual Studio, etc are powerful text editors as well.
  • Flexilibility. Modern software IDE’s can be used to write almost anything

If You Must Use Word

Clean up the HTML so you can publish on the web

Word adds un-needed and extraneous code to your document. Even using Word itself to save as HTML is no good and the generated files are full of fluff and crap. For those using Microsoft Word, here’s some options to convert documents to clean HTML:

Use Online Conversion Tools

Websites like Word2CleanHTML and there are others, convert Word to cleaner HTML.

Upload your Word document for conversion. Get the converted file and publish or copy and paste to the web.

Results can vary and sometimes these services don’t work or there is a fee.

Capterra has a list of conversion tools here.

Use CMS Paste Options

Many CMSs like WordPress have ‘Paste from Word’ options.

Open the finished word document in word, select All and Copy, then Paste in the CMS provided it supports Paste from Word (most don’t). Strips out most unwanted Word formatting - but may need additional editing,

In Word, Save as Web Page, Filtered

You can Save as an HTML file in Word, however these .htm or .html files aren’t great and are full of un-needed code, making future editing tricky and time-consuming.

  1. Go to ‘File’ and ‘Save As’.
  2. Choose ‘Web Page, Filtered (.htm; .html)’.
  3. This reduces unnecessary tags, but will still require manual cleaning.
  4. Then cleanup the HTML manually

If you know HTML, manually edit the code in a code editor or in the web app/post/channel editor. Remove unnecessary tags using a code editor. It can be slow and laborious work and it’s easy to make mistakes.

If you no idea about HTML - you’re stuck with uploading the Word generated HTML as is and will have to deal with maintaining/editing the crappy HTML some time in the future. It’s low quality outcome, but maybe you can just fudge it and ignore the issue for now.

Use ChatGPT to cleanup the HTML file from Word

Rather than manually cleaning up the HTML in your word generated HTML file (which is a laborious task), ask ChatGPT to do it for you.

You will need a paid ChatGPT account.

This kind of works, but you’ll have to hit continue several times if you have a long document, and then glue it altogether again when you paste into your web post editor or cms editor.

  • Step 1: Save your word document in word as a Web Page, Filtered (*.htm,*.html)

  • Step 2. Upload your word.html file to ChatGPT

  • Step 3 Write an appropriate Prompt. Here’s a ChatGPT prompt that worked for me: “Convert this HTML document to Markdown code - preserve all hyperlinks.”

  • Step 4: Copy results into your web/cms/post editor.

WARNING: I’ve had mixed results with ChatGPT 4. On longer documents, ChatGPT often misses whole words and sentences. Misses hyperlinks, or doesn’t place the hyper-link in the same place. So you will have to check and edit manually afterwards - which might defeat the whole purpose of using AI for you. Also if you want Markdown code you will have to start with a word .hrml or.html document. You can upload a word .doc or docx file and get plain text back - but you won;t get the Markdown syntax.

Don’t convert to HTML - just upload the word file - as a word file.

In some web systems such as Brandkit, you can just upload your word doc (and other MS Office document files) as it is. No conversion to HTML needed.

For example, Brandkit will generate a PDF preview for readability online, and if users can download the file, they’ll get your original word doc file when they download it.

  1. Create a document in Word and save normally as a word document file
  2. Upload the Word file to your Brandkit account.
  3. Tag, Approve and Publish.

If you’re happy to skip Word.

Write natively on the web (1st choice)

If you can - writing natively in the final destination application, website, social media channel is ALWAYS preferable.

That is: if you are writing a blog post or press release for publishing on Brandkit - use Brandkit and write in the Brandkit Post editor. Ditto Wordpress. Ditto LinkedIn, Ditto Twitter, etc

Try a Markdown editor (2nd choice)

Markdown is a text formatting syntax that enables you to write content you can convert to HTML easily. All of the content you see on the web (including this article) is in HTML. If you use your browser’s inspection tool to check out any page’s code, you’ll see its text appear in HTML.

The main benefit of using markdown is portability. Any quality markdown editor will be able to take a markdown document (.md or .mkd) and convert it into other formats, including:

  • HTML
  • PDF
  • Plain text
  • Epub
  • Docx

Good Markdown Editors include Draft, Hemmingway, Mark, Typora,etc

Write native HTML with minimal inline styling (3rd choice)

Learn how to write simple HTML and use a web editor or fully featured text editor or Software IDE to write clean HTML free from style (which will be setup in the destination website/channel). Then paste into any web editor that supports HTML.

Write in plain text in a plain text editor (NOT Word), then copy and paste into the website editor, and then add any formatting in the website editor.

Sometimes it’s just easier to write plain text - you could use your email app, Apple TextEdit, or Notrepad on Windows. The goal is zero formatting or styling (no bold text, no italics, no hyperlinks, no headings, etc).

Then Copy and paste into the website and use native controls to format the text, add bold text, etc,

Note that many web site/channels don’t allow formatting of text e.g. Twitter.

Conclusion

The moral of the story is that if you are writing content for the web, best avoid Word .

Instead, write content natively on the platform that you will publish to (e.g. Wordpress, Social Media site, Brandkit, etc). If you want a file based approach that you can copy and paste from to the web - get your self a good text editor that supports Markdown and HTML output.

And if you really really want to write in Word - find a web channel that supports native word documents, like Brandkit, and just upload your Word .doc/.docx file in all it’s glory.

Happy branding :)


This article was written with the assistance of ChatGPT.

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Why Microsoft Word is one of the worst places to write content for the web

Writing content for the web demands the right tools. Here’s why MS Word is not the best tool for that. Click here to learn about other tools we recommend.

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