Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A few Microsoft Word tips

If you are using MS Word to produce a book or any other kind of document, there are a few less-than-obvious ways to save space to improve the appearance of a page.

(1) Very often a paragraph or a single line of text in a table turns out to be just a tiny bit longer than you would like it to be, possibly leaving one word (a "widow") on the final line. The easiest way to "kill the widow" is to remove a word or two, but sometimes every word is vital, or there are no shorter alternative words.

If you can't change the number or length of words, you can change the size of the words.

Word's type size pull-down menu gives you many choices, but they're not your only choices. For example, Word shows both 12 points and 14 points, but not 13. If you think 13 points would be the right size, just type 13 into the window, and tap ENTER.

If you need something smaller than 8 points, which is the smallest choice shown, you can type in 7 or 6 if you think they are better options.

You are not even limited to whole numbers. I recently reduced a line that was slightly to wide to fit my margins, from 12 points to 11.5. I doubt that anyone will notice.

(2) Another way to save space on a page is to reduce the spacing between paragraphs, if your document uses blank spaces to separate paragraphs, like this blog.

The default format gives the blank space the same height as a printed line, but you can easily decrease the space if you need to get more text on a page. (You can also increase the space height if you want to fill the page more.)

Put your cursor in the space and change the type size in the drop-down window so you can experiment with different solutions and find what looks best to you.

The combination of changing type size, changing paragraph spacing, and eliminating or substituting words gives self-publishing authors a lot more control compared to being subject to the whims of outside editors and typographers.

You wrote the book. Make it look the way you want it to look.

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