How to Use Margins in Microsoft Word

There is more to creating a document than just typing in the text. Read on to learn about using margins in Microsoft Word.

The margins of a document are the white space around the edges of the page. Most printers can print to a half inch from the edge of the physical page. This minimum margin would be 1/2″. There is no maximum margin as it would leave no printable space. Somewhere in between will make the document look like you intend.

Setting Margins for the Whole document

In the Layout tab for the document, the first icon on the left opens the margins tool. Five preset margin layouts will display.

Clicking on any one of these will set the margins for the entire document. “Normal” is 1″ margins on all four sides of the document. “Mirrored” is for multi-page documents that will be bound. It puts a wider margin on the inside binding edge.

Choosing Custom Margins opens the following dialog.

The margins on each of the four document sides, are set individually.

Changes can be applied to the entire document, or from this point forward. There will be an additional “Apply to” choice if there is text selected. In that case, you will have a choice to apply the margins only to the text selected.

Margins can change throughout the document, but if you do this you may end up with inadvertent layout issues. We do not recommend this except in very specific cases.

The Layout tab in this same dialog box offers additional formatting options. These are not specific to margins, but are useful to understand in terms of the overall layout and management of your document. Ask us if you’d like to know more!

Fine Tuning After Setting Margins in Microsoft Word

The next step of fine tuning how your text is laid out on the page, is deciding whether to allow Orphan and Widow lines. When the layout including the margins leaves a single line on one page, but the bulk of the paragraph on another page, these are orphan and widow lines. This would look like a single line at the bottom of one page with the rest of the paragraph on the top of the next page. Alternately it could be a single line at the top of a page, with the rest of the paragraph at the bottom of the prior page.

The Orphan/Widow control setting is found in Format. Then click on Paragraph. Turning it on will force at least two lines of a paragraph to fall on the same page. You will never be left with a single line at the top or bottom of a page.

Occasionally, this still isn’t enough control. You can force text to fall on the following page without changing the page’s margin by putting in a Page Break.

  • Position your cursor at the start of the text that you want to begin the new page
  • Click on Layout
  • Choose Breaks
  • Then the type of break e.g. Page Break

Using all these techniques will give you more control over the layout and pagination of your document.

If you want to learn more tips, or have questions about these, please call for more help. If you have specific questions, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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