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Microsoft Word is my fourth favourite writing tool1.

I rarely use Word to write stories or blog posts. Yet, I never hesitate to renew my Office 365 subscription.

It sounds contradictory. That NZ$165.00 Office 365 subscription is good value. That’s true even though I don’t use Word to write and I almost never open Excel. I go out of my way to not let PowerPoint into my life.

At this point you might think this is throwing money away. Open source fans reading this will be aghast.

But there is a method in my madness. Writing is my work. A typical year’s work is 250,000 words. My writing output was even higher for a few years. After more than 40 years in the business, I’ve written, and publishers have paid me for, at least 10 million words.

Most, not all, of the time, I’m paid by the word. Which means my ability to produce quality writing puts food on my table and a roof over my head.

Writing is talking to people, researching, checking then putting it all into words. Sometimes it is about reviving my own work or dealing with words others have sent to me.

Microsoft Word is not optional

Like it or not, Microsoft Word is the lingua franca of digital writing. Almost everyone in the business uses it. It’s been more than two decades since an editor expected copy in anything other than Word format.

At this point, people who dislike Word might be thinking: “Yes, but everything else can save in a Word format. So it isn’t necessary to buy a subscription”.

They have a point. Except that sooner or later, something doesn’t convert between Word and another format.

The most troublesome issue is with edits marked using Microsoft’s Track Changes feature.

Yes, many non-Word writing applications can understand and deal with Track Changes markups. But this is not always straightforward.

The cost to me of failing to deal fast with one edit incident can be greater than the subscription price. It’s rare, but over 250,000 words, it happens a few times every year.

It costs even more than the subscription when we take into account it includes licenses for other family members. In effect my personal subscription costs 25 percent of $165, that’s $40 plus change.

Don’t go there

Even a quick dive down the troubleshooting rabbit hole costs more.

Multiply this by the two or more incidents a year and you can see that paying the subscription leaves me ahead. It’s a solid investment.

Open source fans tell me this attitude is wrong and that I’m paying a tax or even a ransom to Microsoft to be able to work. You could see it this way.

Yet it isn’t Microsoft that is holding me to ransom, it is the editors and publishers who commit to Word. If everyone accepted plain text2 I wouldn’t need to pay the fee.

It might be better to frame the fee as paying for membership of the hireable professional writers club. Either way, it’s a bargain.


  1. In my world it ranks behind IA Writer, Byword and Pages. ↩︎
  2. Text was fine for a long time. That changed about 20 years ago. ↩︎

22 thoughts on “Microsoft Word stickiness

  1. Not to mention you can always pick up a subscription card for between $99-120 during the year, it’s never $165. I keep a Pricespy alert for when it gets cheap. Using one of the 6 OneDrive accounts as a 1TB online backup is also very handy.

  2. Great to hear your perspective on the Office. Makes total sense!

    I pay for Office 365 too, for the 1 TB OneDrive space. The Office suite is the icing on the cake for me.

    • Hi Chait,

      That’s funny, because I see the 1TB of OneDrive storage as the icing on my cake. In fact, I used exactly the same words to describe it about two days ago.

  3. I’ve been trying to get away from using MS Word for about 20 years now. The problem with doing so has always been the fact that businesses which use MS Word expect people submitting documents to do so in MS propriety standards rather than any other formats. And, as their own documents are in MS format, they still think that they need to use MS Office to access them.

    But, MS now supports ODT and other open standards which means that Office can open documents in other formats without a hitch. This should allow people to shift away from using MS propriety standards over time. I’ve been trying to get Seek to allow the use of Open Document standards rather than sticking to MS ones for submitting CVs etc.

    Unfortunately, for the time being, the stickiness of MS Office remains.

    • “…means that Office can open documents in other formats without a hitch.”

      That’s still not 100 percent. Almost, but the day it doesn’t work is the day when it was cheaper to have paid for the software than spend time troubleshooting the problem.

  4. “Microsoft Word is the lingua franca of digital writing” true but ironic considering Word is still based around the printed page, rather than digital media.

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