My short cuts – the line space button

24 Oct

Today we’re finding out all about the wonder that is the Line Space button. Do you know what it does? Did you know it was even there? And did you know how many ways there are to get to the Paragraph menu …? All this and more in today’s Short Cuts!

What is line spacing and why do I need to know about it?

Line spacing defines a large portion of what your document looks like on the page. It’s all about the gaps between the lines you type. Too close together, and your document can be hard to read. Too far apart, and there aren’t enough words on the page, with all that white space glaring at you. Of course, sometimes you’re told that your work must be presented in a particular way – double line spaced is popular for both academic work and fiction being submitted to a publisher or magazine.

It’s also really useful to be able to insert a gap between paragraphs automatically, to save you having to insert one manually – and if you find you’re working on a document that has odd spacing (or, worse, inconsistent spacing!) between lines and paragraphs, this is how you sort it out.

How do I alter the spaces between lines in my document?

We’re in Word 2007 or Word 2010 now, with that handy “ribbon” containing hundreds of little square buttons. Make sure you’re in the Home tab and have a look at the Paragraph section. You should find a button with up and down arrows to the side and lines of text in the middle: the Line Space button. There’s a big version at the top of this post, and you can find it here:

When using this button, or indeed anything that changes the word, line, paragraph, page or whole document that you are working on, make sure you’ve highlighted the text to which you want the change to apply first. Then click on the button and see what choices you are presented with:

The first thing you’ll notice is that one of the line spacing options (in the top half of the box) is already ticked, and you have an option to Remove Space After Paragraph (in the bottom part of the box) which, you can see by comparing it to the line above it, implies that there is a space set to appear after each paragraph at the moment. So one useful feature here is that clicking on the paragraph and then the line space button will tell you what is already set up for that part of the document. In this case, the spacing is 1.15 (just a little bigger than single line spacing) and there’s an extra line space after each paragraph.

Let’s try changing something …

Here, we’ve changed the line spacing to 1 and clicked on Remove Space After Paragraph, so it’s flipped to saying Add Space After Paragraph (red arrows). And look what’s happened (immediately) to our highlighted text. All of the lines are closer together, and the space between the paragraphs has disappeared (blue arrow).

We can change it back and go the other way, too …

This image is at the same scale as all of the other ones, but you can see that changing the line spacing to 1.5 and adding spaces before and after the paragraphs has really spaced it out, and moved it further down the page to start off with.

Now, there’s one line in the dialogue box we haven’t looked at yet: Line Spacing Options… What does that do?

How do I use Line Spacing Options?

The Line Spacing Options … erm, option can be found between the line spacing and paragraph spacing choices:

When you click it, you’ll be given a new dialogue box, which is actually the standard Paragraph options box. It has two tabs, and the first one is Indents and Spacing:

If you want to customise your document completely, this is where you come to set the paragraph indent, and the actual distance between paragraphs. There’s a handy Preview pane at the bottom which will show you the effect of any changes you make on some sample text (circled in blue). You can also work with Tabs from here – we talked about Tabs in another session. And, if you wish, you can change everything on here and then set it as being your default setting for paragraphs for this documents, or all documents based on this template that you ever work on:

The other tab on this dialogue box is all about Line and Page Breaks:

These are topics in themselves, so I’ll write about them in another session (if I forget to come back and put a link in here, use the Search box in the right hand column of this blog, or look it up in my index).

When you’ve finished with all of these options, just press the OK or Cancel buttons to accept your changes or go back to the document.

How do I access the Paragraph menu?

This being Word, you will find the same Paragraph menu we’ve just been looking at popping up on other routes through the software. If you just need the Paragraph menu and not the Line Spacing options in particular, you can access it from any Word document by highlighting your text, clicking with the right mouse button and selecting Paragraph from the selection that appears:

Or you can access it by clicking on the little tiny arrow at the bottom of the Paragraph title bar (if that’s what it’s called!) on the ribbon (I talk about these little arrows elsewhere, too):

I hope you’ve found these hints helpful! Do pop a comment on this post if I’ve helped you learn something new or solved a tricky problem for you, and do explore the rest of my blog if this is your first visit!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


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