You don't need me to tell you what a paragraph is — it's a block of text that ends with a "hard return" you insert by pressing the Enter key. In Microsoft Word, paragraph formatting covers such attributes as justification, indentation, line spacing, and what WordPerfect calls "block protect" (called something else by Word, but we'll get to that later).
Our first lesson in paragraph formatting focuses on justification and line spacing. Some of these instructions will be familiar to anyone who's worked with a Windows word processor before, but here's how you can set each of these attributes in Microsoft Word:
Justification (some prefer the term "alignment") refers to how the paragraph is aligned horizontally.
Examples of left, right, center and full justification (top to bottom, respectively)
And it's super easy — here's how you do left-justify, right-justify, center, and full-justify in Microsoft Word (either with your mouse or your keyboard).
Using the Ribbon
Paragraph formatting is controlled by the Paragraph section on the Home tab of the Ribbon:
You can control justification/alignment of a paragraph by clicking on the following buttons:
Left-Justify - leaves a ragged right edge to the paragraph (like a typewriter would)
Center - centers the text on each line
Right-Justify - aligns the text even with the right-hand margin
Full-Justify - gives paragraphs an even left and right margin by proportionally spacing the text
Using the Paragraph dialog box
More paragraph formatting commands (including those we'll be talking about below) are contained in the Paragraph dialog box. To open the dialog box, click the launcher (the small arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Paragraph section of the Home tab of the Ribbon):
That will bring up the Paragraph dialog box. The justification settings are near the top, in a drop-down box:
Setting line spacing is easy, too, and you've got the same options here: Ribbon and keyboard.
Setting line spacing on the Ribbon
There are two places on Microsoft Word's Ribbon that you can adjust line spacing. You can either use the drop-down in the Paragraph section of the Home tab:
... or you can click the dialog launcher arrow in the Paragraph section of the Layout tab (called the Page Layout tab in Word 2010) to bring up the Paragraph dialog box:
Word 365 (online version)
If you choose Multiple (see the area inside the red square above), you can use any positive number for the "at" value (the area inside the blue square above), and Word will adjust the spacing based on the number of lines ("3" would be triple-spacing, for example). If you need to be more precise, choose "Exactly" and use points, centimeters, or inches as your unit of measurement in the "at" box.
Setting line spacing with the keyboard
You speed typists out there can use the following shortcut keys for these standard line spacing options:
Space Before/After Paragraphs
In addition to setting line spacing <em>within</em> a paragraph, you can add extra space between paragraphs. This option comes in especially handy in a couple of situations:
This, by the way, is the feature that's often behind this complaint: "I chose single spacing, but I still see extra spaces between my paragraphs!" If you run into this predicament, you'll soon know how to check (and correct) this setting.
Again, you can access these settings via either the Ribbon or the keyboard. On the Ribbon, you can use the spinner (a field with up and down arrows on the side that enable you to change the value in the field up or down) in the Paragraph section of the Layout tab (called the Page Layout tab in Word 2010 and Word 365).
You can also adjust these values in the same Paragraph dialog box shown above.
That check box for "don't add space between paragraphs of the same style" deserves a special mention. It's handy when you're working with headings (you want space before and after a two-line heading, but not space between the first and second lines separated by a hard return).
Where that check box becomes a bit of a pain in the neck is when it's checked for regular text paragraphs. Don't get frustrated if you reset before/after paragraph spacing and it doesn't seem to "take". Select all of the text that doesn't seem to be behaving properly, then head into the Paragraph dialog box (click the launcher arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the Paragraph section of either the Home or Layout/Page Layout tabs) to make sure this box isn't ticked.
Here's what we've covered in this tutorial:
This was kind of a long lesson! Thanks for hanging in there with me.
The next tutorial in this series will cover ...
Paragraph indentation and tab settings. See you then!