Microsoft Word Paragraph and Line Spacing

More notes from the Office Guy…

I have been using and teaching Microsoft Word for many years now, and for the most part I think it is a great product with many useful features. I’ve also seen how the product has evolved over the years to become more user friendly and powerful with each new release.

Having said that, there is one thing that I’ve found that not only annoys me, but annoys about 99.9% of everybody that uses Word: the default settings for paragraph and line spacing. In this article I’ll show you the easy (but not obvious) way to fix this once and for all.

But first, a little history lesson is in order: In all version of Word that pre-dated the 2007 release, when you were typing in a document and then you pressed the Enter Key on your keyboard, the cursor would automatically move down the page to the next line. In most cases, this was exactly what you wanted it to do, but occasionally you’d want and extra blank line between paragraphs, so you could just press the Enter key a second time to skip down to another line to leave a blank line between paragraphs.

But, beginning with the 2007 version of Word (and continuing on to this day in 2013), this changed. All of a sudden, pressing the Enter key would move your cursor in a way that would leave a large blank space before you started to type the next line of text whether you wanted one or not. While the designers of Word thought this was a good idea, I can say honestly that the most common question I get as an instructor is: How can I make Word stop doing this?

Here is the way to fix this once and for all, not just on a document by document basis. The answer lies in using a part of the Ribbon that a lot of people overlook – a dialog-box launcher. 

So, what is a dialog-box launcher? It is an element of the Ribbons that house the many command buttons at the top of the screen in every Microsoft Office product. Let’s review the basic idea and terminology first.

The row of words that appear at the top of the screen (Home, Insert, etc.) are called Tabs – each Tab is connected to a different part of the Ribbon, so that clicking on a Tab shows more command buttons. Each part of the Ribbon is divided in to Groups, which are the names along the bottom of the Ribbon as illustrated below:

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Each Group houses command buttons that perform similar functions. This arrangement (which began in the 2007 release of Office) allowed for a much more graphic interface where users could pick out commands by clicking an icon instead of memorizing the name of a command from a menu.

But, there were still some command variations that could not fit on to the ribbon, so in order to preserve all of the functionality, Dialog-Box launchers were placed next to the name of a Group on the Ribbon. They look like small indented squares and were easy to overlook, so here is a picture of the Dialog-Box Launcher for the Paragraph Group:

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Dialog-Box Launcher

Office Guy 1And now that you know what a Dialog-Box Launcher is and where to find it, let’s illustrate how to fix the problem of getting automatic extra spacing between paragraphs permanently, not just for one document at a time.

When you click the Dialog-Box Launcher in the Paragraph Group, you will open up the following Dialog-Box:

Please note the Default setting for Spacing After:
It is set to 8 Points. This is the setting that adds the extra space every time you press the Enter Key.

Simply re-set this value to 0 pt (points), and then click the button labeled Set as Default.

Then, when the following message appears, choose the Option labeled “All documents based on the Normal Template” and click OK.Office Guy 2

From this point forward, you will no longer get extra spaces between your paragraphs automatically (you can always put them in deliberately if you want to!).


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