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Word Paragraph Formatting

A reader called to ask how to convert a Microsoft Word file with single line spacing into a double-spaced document. Well, the traditional method is to highlight the document with Edit>Select All, and then go to Format>Paragraph, and choose Double under Line Spacing. A quicker way is to hold down Ctrl and press 2. Using Ctrl+1 will return the selection to single spacing, while Ctrl+5 will convert the selection to 1.5 line spacing.

Double line-spacing has always been the preferred format for submitting a typewritten document to a publisher. However, this has become less of an issue with documents submitted via email, where editors can reformat the file to suit themselves.

Paragraph Alignment Options

Other Format>Paragraph options are for Indentation and Alignment, which include Left, Center, Right, and Justify. Justify means to make all text lines the same length so that left and right paragraph margins line up vertically.

Historically, justified text has been used in books and newspapers, but the Internet has been changing that custom, where most textual content is displayed with Left Alignment and a "ragged right edge." Why?

Well, in today's fast-paced, short-attention-span world it's been discovered that non-justified paragraphs are easier to read than boxy, justified paragraphs, which tend to appear stiff, old fashioned, and less reader-friendly.

Likewise, a document with short paragraphs is more likely to be read in its entirety than one with long paragraphs.

Shortcuts for paragraph alignment are: Ctrl+L=left, Ctrl+R=right, Ctrl+J=justify and Ctrl+E will center the text.

Spacing between paragraphs (leading) can be adjusted under Format>Paragraph Spacing and choosing the number of points to be inserted Before and After.

The average computer user is unlikely to need many of the fancy paragraph options described above, but they can be important to a writer who wants to do a self-published work, such as a book or a newsletter.

Is MSWord the Platform Preferred by Book Publishers?

Since MSWord is the world's most-used word processor, one might assume it is the platform preferred by most book publishers. However, many will only accept documents submitted as PDF (portable document file) manuscripts. If you are preparing a document that will include special paragraph formatting and/or images, converting it to PDF will be essential.

The de facto program for doing such conversions has always been Adobe Acrobat, which sells for about $450. However, MSOffice/MSWord 2007/2010 and the free LibreOffice suite (available at include a PDF utility. Also, the free Google Docs online text editor can output to PDF.

Google Docs and LibreOffice also include an Excel-compatible spreadsheet, and a PowerPoint-compatible presentation program.

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