Changing Microsoft Word Default Format

Published Feb 17th, 2011 on

Writing for Profit or Pleasure: Where to Sell Your Work - book imageIf you use Microsoft Word to do your writing, will probably have noticed some annoying habits this program has as far as formatting your work into paragraphs. If you use the default template, to indent the first line of a paragraph you must hit the space bar several times. To get a blank line between paragraphs you must hit Enter twice. And when you copy and paste this text into blogging control panels or publishing processors, you end up with way too much white space.

Did you know that you can configure Word to automatically format paragraphs to eliminate these problems?

In Microsoft Word 2003 and XP, click Edit on your tool bar and select Select All from the menu. This highlights all of the text in your document. In Word 2007 look to the right end of your tool bar and find the Editing section. Click Select then Select All.

microsoft word paragraph spacingIn Word 2003 and XP, click Format on the tool bar and select Paragraph from the menu and a window opens. In Word 2007 the Paragraph section is about in the middle of the bar. Click the tiny symbol at the right end of the Paragraph title bar and the same window opens up. In this window you will see headers for General, Indentation and Spacing.

All fiction and most non-fiction are written with the first line of each paragraph indented and no extra space between paragraphs. Set this up with the Indentation section; change the window labeled Special from (none) to First line and enter ‘.2’ in the By window. The preview window at the bottom shows you how it will look. Make sure Line Spacing under the Spacing header is set at Single.

Some non-fiction and most technical writing (and every blog I’ve seen) are done using flush-left paragraphs with some white space between. Set this up with the windows for Before:, After: and Line Spacing: under the Spacing header. Make sure Line Spacing: is set to Single, Before: is set to 0 pt and After: is set to 6 pt.

Press the OK button at the bottom to save your changes and apply them to your highlighted content (it IS still highlighted, right?).

Now pressing Enter once will end the paragraph and insert not quite a full line’s width of white space. And you can copy and paste this text into a blogging editor and not have to go back and remove the extra hard line returns to close up the white space.

You can use a blank document, make these changes and save it as a template file (using Save As / Template) so this format will be available each time you write without having to set it up.

Some versions of Microsoft Word come with a variety of templates preconfigured and installed, you may want to explore those before building a new one.

And that it my Handy Tip from me to you. Hope it helps!

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