MS Word Tips #3: Setting Up Pages and Formatting Documents

MS Word provides two separate options for formatting documents.

The first is Page Setup or Layout which includes setting the parameters for how each physical page will print. The image at the top of this post shows a collage of menu screens for Page Layout with MS Word for a Mac.

The second is Document formatting which includes setting parameters for how the text will appear on the electronic page.

Providing two means to format a page may seem redundant, but consider that the paper goes through your printer only one way while the orientation of the text on the paper may vary not only from page to page, but even within a single printed page. Having the ability to separate the formatting for the physical page from formatting the electronic page gives writers both flexibility and control.

In addition, the printout of a document prepared on one computer and then forwarded to someone else may appear with a slightly different layout from its appearance on the original screen. Documents prepared to be printed on letter paper, for example, when printed on slightly narrower and longer A4 paper in Europe may break lines at different locations or have page breaks at different points.

Since MS Word is available for both PCs and Macs, the specifics for how you use the two formatting options differ by operating system and release level of Microsoft Word. To learn about your computer and MS Word release level, search for MS Word Page Setup using your favorite search engine.

Page Setup or Page Layout

The primary function of Page Setup in MS Word is to identify the printer, and sometimes the paper, to be used when selecting Print. However, most versions of Word offer some Page Layout options, such as page orientation or paper size, on the same screen, which may be confusing to someone who isn’t aware that Page Layout features are also part of MS Word’s Document formatting features.

When it is necessary to control the appearance of text regardless of how it may be viewed on a computer screen or printed, use of PDF (portable document format) is preferable. But PDF documents cannot easily be edited and are therefore not appropriate for submitting manuscripts for contests or for publication.

The following videos demonstrate how to set up the document for printing the physical document. The version of MS Word, e.g., 2010, 2013, 2016, is not referred to, but the concept remains the same across releases.

The video below is from Goodwill Community Foundation which provides video training at no cost.

Versions for Mac OS differ somewhat, but again, the concepts are the same. The video below illustrates the same options for Word on a Mac.

There is little information available about the creator of this video, unlike Goodwill Community Foundation, except that the presenter began creating videos in 2015 and has a number of short videos on YouTube that have been viewed nearly 400,000 times.

If the version of Word you have does not look like either of these videos, search YouTube using terms such as “Page Setup MS Word 20xx for PC” replacing xx with the year of the version of Word you are using.

Document Formatting

You don’t need to know anything about Document formatting to create or edit Word documents. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage.

You don’t need to know anything about formatting a document because every document you create in Word has been preformatted by the template assigned to it when it was created. Every Word document is assigned to a template. Most of the time, that template is called normal.dotm. That template identifies all of the following in each document:

  • the name, size, color, and characteristics (e.g. bold, italic, underlined, or any combination of those) of the font,
  • the spacing between lines and paragraphs,
  • the tab locations,
  • whether paragraphs are indented,
  • whether the document has a header or a footer,
  • the top, bottom, right, and left margins,
  • the orientation of the page—portrait or landscape,
  • whether the text appears in columns,
  • whether widow or orphan lines are permitted in the document, and
  • anything else you can do to the format of a given Word document.

Normal.dotm serves as the default document formatting when you begin a new document. But it does not prevent you from changing the formatting.

For example, if normal.dotm defines the font of the document to be Bookman Antigua, 10 point, neither italics nor bold, you can change the font of everything on the document to Times New Roman, 12 point either before you begin typing or at any time afterwards. Changing the font definition in a specific document does not change normal.dotm unless you specify these changes should be made to the template.

If normal.dotm defines the margins as 1 inch at top, bottom, right, and left of the document, you can change the margins for the document

All the formatting information for the the document is stored with the final character on each document. That final character is not visible, but you can see it with MS Word’s Show-Hide Feature turned on. It appears as the final paragraph symbol on the document. Only the final paragraph symbol contains the document formatting information. If the screen shot below were a complete document, the paragraph symbol that appears at the bottom of the screen is where all the formatting information for the entire document is stored.

Get used to using both these means for setting up your manuscripts.

Categories: Writing and EditingTags: ,

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