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Typesetting in Microsoft Word: Part 1. Getting Started

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If you’re a small publisher, you may have wondered if it’s possible to set type in Microsoft Word. Why would you want to? Well, you probably do your editorial work in Word. And converting Word files into QuarkXPress or InDesign can be problematic. Besides, you may not be able to afford these expensive typesetting programs. An additional bonus: Word does automatic footnotes.

The truth is, you can do professional-quality typesetting in nothing but Word. Here’s how.

Setting Up

One of the keys in using Word for typography is to change a few of its little-known options, especially the one that makes word spacing in justified text contract as well as expand. This will greatly improve the look of your type.

To use it:

1. Click the “Tools” menu. On a Macintosh, click the “Word” menu.

2. Click “Options.” On a Macintosh, click “Preferences.”

3. Click “Compatibility.”

4. Put a check next to the option labeled “Do full justification like WordPerfect 6.x for Windows.”

(Caution: This option will not work correctly on a Macintosh in versions before Word 2004.)

While you’re looking at the “Compatibility” tab, put a check next to “Don’t expand character spaces on the line ending Shift-Return.” Then if you break a line with a soft return (Shift + Enter), the line will still be properly justified.

I also recommend using the following options under “Compatibility”:

    • Don’t center “exact line height” lines.
    • Don’t add extra space for raised/lowered characters.
    • Suppress “Space Before” after a hard page or column break.

When you’re finished, click OK.

Finally, turn on automatic hyphenation in the document you want to typeset:

1. Click Tools > Language > Hyphenation.

2. Check the box labeled “Automatically hyphenate document.”

3. Set “Hyphenation zone” to about half an inch or the equivalent.

4. Set “Limit consecutive hyphens” to 3.

5. Click the OK button.

Even after you’ve set these options, justification may not look quite right on your screen, especially at the ends of lines, since Word doesn’t render everything perfectly. When you print your document, however, you’ll see the justified text in all its glory.

Finding a Design

One good way to design internal pages is to steal a good design. There is no copyright on a book’s typography–only on its text. So you might as well borrow the design of the best-looking book you can find that fits your subject, your tone, and your reader.

First, identify the typefaces used in the book at www.identifont.com.

Next, identify point sizes of headings, body text, and other elements. You’ll also need to identify leading (line spacing) and line length. How? Get out the old pica ruler and start measuring. You don’t have a pica ruler? You can get one at your local art-supply store–or download a couple of free ones here:



If you want to measure stuff on-screen, you’ll love the free CoolRuler, which you can configure to meet your needs. Download it at www.fabsoft.com/products/ruler/ruler.html.

Many books use more than one typeface–usually a serif face for body text and a sans-serif or decorative face for display text, such as headings. But professional designers won’t use much more than that, and neither should you. Using lots of different typefaces in a single book is a hallmark of bad design. You should also avoid using Arial (Helvetica on a Mac) for heading styles and Times New Roman (Times on a Mac) for body text. They’re Word’s defaults, which means they’re vastly overused. Also, Times Roman was designed for use in a newspaper (specifically the London Times), and its characters are too narrow for a book.

If you’d like suggestions for typefaces that look good together, you’ll find lots of information here:



Next time: Setting up pages.

Jack M. Lyon is proprietor of The Editorium (www.editorium.com), which provides macros to automate publishing tasks in Microsoft Word. He’s also managing editor of a publishing house in Salt Lake City and co-author of a business book, Managing the Obvious. To subscribe to Editorium Update, his free newsletter about publishing with Word, send a blank email message to subscribe-editorium@topica.com. For more information, email editor@editorium.com.

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