Why you shouldn’t use Word for reviewing manuscripts and abstracts

Tatiana Carvalho
Aug 30 · 5 min read

I still remember Pentium II turning on, taking 10 minutes to boot up, another 5 to load Windows 95 with all the little icons on the screen, and the shortcuts to access applications. The internet was not there yet, so for most of us, the only real work we could do with a computer was writing documents. Microsoft Office 95 with Word were there to provide their all-powerful and mighty features to edit documents.

Collaboration back then was very simple: work on your document, save it on a diskette drive, give that diskette to the person that needed to review the document after you, and so on until a final version is reached. Simple means that there was no choice to make it better.

When the internet finally arrived, at least we got rid of the diskettes! Now we could just send an email with the DOC file attached, and the next person in the review cycle would provide their feedback, and so on. Not a minor milestone! This meant eliminating the need for physically meeting with the next person in the review cycle.

And then the Middle Ages of Office came around. For 20 years, things were done that way, even if Google Docs was available halfway through. We got comfortable with not having to use diskettes, but the process inherently did not change: we were still collaborating sequentially, one after another, without building knowledge together.

Finally, Microsoft released a serious version of Word Online and Teams in 2020, which at last enables teams to collaborate on a single document without the need for waiting in line to collaborate. But since that Microsoft Office 95, scientific writers have always felt something is not quite right. And Word Online made it even more visible! What is it?

Neither Word nor Word Online were built for scientific writing

Word was built for working with general documents: reports, essays, scripts, and more. But nobody ever sat down and said, “Let’s build Word to make scientific writing easier.” As a result, macros and a million customizations have been developed ad hoc to try to mitigate how bad it is for scientific writing.

You might be thinking, “Well, I use it all the time, and it works!” Fair enough, but for the sake of challenging you a little, my dear reader, if your answer is yes to at least one of the following questions, it might be an indication that “it does not work all that well!”:

If using Word:

  • You have sent a Word document by email to 4–5 people and ended up with several different versions of the document
  • You had to wait for your turn to get the document sent over because someone else was working on it
  • By copying content from other Word documents, you ended up with several duplicate styles
  • Found formatting to journal requirements tedious or boring
  • Experienced contradicting feedback from different authors because they had not seen each other’s comments or changes

If using Word Online (365):

  • The document had more than 10 pages, got slow, and sometimes crashed and lost all changes
  • The number of people collaborating in real-time was more than five, random changes and jumps happened on the page
  • The number of track changes inserted by more than two people got to more than 30 per page, the application became slow, crashed, and made the revision longer
  • Had to collaborate with authors outside of your company, and you couldn’t share the document and had to resort to emails and attachments again
  • You couldn’t manage references to be automatically formatted to follow journal or report requirements
  • Had to do the style and layout formatting manually, even if you started with a template provided by a journal or agency

Now, if we are in agreement that Word was not built for scientific writing, and definitely has room for improvement, what can we do?

doDOC was built by scientific writers, for scientific writers, to complement Word’s shortcomings

doDOC has been built from the ground-up by scientific writers. Authors, affiliations, references, journal requirements, review cycles, ways of communicating with writers, reviewers, and authors… they all came from the knowledge, the experience, and the frustrations that scientific writers have acquired over more than 20 years of working with Word. The idea was to bridge the gap of what Word was lacking, but still give the freedom to use Word for what it is good for. That is why the 5 seconds import/export Word documents into doDOC was created. You can literally have the best of both worlds.

Let’s take, for example, the review process with external authors, all working on the same document, dissected into the steps to follow in doDOC to make it happen:

  • Upload Word draft into doDOC (5 seconds)
  • Share with the external author, and she will receive an email with a link to access the document and do what she has to do (5 seconds)

Yes, just two steps. All completed in 10 seconds. Why should it be more complicated than this? Because of licensing? Why should you or the external author care about licensing? Your objective is to collaborate with a scientific document, and that is what sharing should be.

Let’s take another example to see if scientific writers were right about building doDOC. You submitted your manuscript to a journal, which, after 3 months of long and tedious peer reviews, has decided not to publish it. With doDOC, the steps for the resubmission to another journal are the following:

  • Open the library of journal templates and choose one of 2000 available. Your paragraphs, references, authors, affiliations, tables, images, headings, and any other piece of content in the manuscript will be automatically formatted to follow the requirements of the new journal.

Yes, just one step. Because that’s what it should be when the people that have done it a thousand times decide to build a tool to finally make their lives easier.

Are you ready to make this one-step, life-changing transition from just using Word into Word + doDOC? Listen to the scientific writers — they know their stuff.

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