How to create a Quick Reference Guide in Microsoft Word

Dec 3, 2020 | Word Hints and Tips

This blog has been prompted by the need to create a quick reference guide (QRG) recently for a client.  A quick reference guide is designed to cover the key points on a topic at a glance but doesn’t go into all the detail you might expect from a manual.  It’s enough to get you started and point you in the correct direction on some of the most important features.

Generally a quick reference guide will be 2 pages long, so if printed double-sided it all fits on one piece of paper.  That’s not very much space to work with.  The balance is still making it easy to read but putting as much information on as possible.  So here are some of the things I do that you could consider, and not just for quick reference guides but for any other document containing high-level information that you are creating to share information with others.


I still have headings on a quick reference guide which I make bold but not much larger than the rest of the text to save space.  This means they still stand out.  I also bold keywords.  When someone glances down the page it draws your eye to the information that is particularly important.


I add small pictures to my quick reference guides to make them more interesting.  A page of solid text will not be appealing to the eye for most and you have lost your audience before they begin to get to the really useful stuff.  Pictures of icons and other screenshots are my usual go-to but it might be 1 larger picture rather than several smaller ones that work for you.


Now this is an interesting one!  quick reference guides are normally setup in a landscape format with either 2 or 3 columns.  You can get the columns in a number of ways.

  • Using the columns option on the layout tab. Once you have run out of space in 1 column it will automatically start populating the next unless you start adding column breaks (like page breaks but for columns)
  • Creating a table with the required number of columns but only 1 row per page. In this case you can start typing in any of the boxes at any time and if you want to move something from 1 column to another you cut and paste

The table is my preferred option but it really depends on which you are more comfortable with.


Squeeze the margins as much as you sensibly can.  By doing this you end up with a few extra rows on each page and this extra space counts when you only have 2 pages to play with anyway.


Use headers to give each page a meaningful title and add a mini logo if appropriate to do so.  This quickly makes it obvious what the content of the quick reference guide is and the logo helps to break up the text.

Bullet points or numbering

Using bullet points or numbering makes it clearer the steps involved in a process or the points that need to be considered.  With limited space it is easier to take in key information than long sentences or paragraphs.

I hope that some of these ideas help when you are creating a summary guide for others.  Or why not let me create it for you!!

Want to learn more about Microsoft Word? Then email to discuss how I can help or have a look at the Microsoft Word Courses I run.