Help with Writing: Word Advanced, part 3

And we’re back to Word! This time, we tackle the Layout panel. The functions here are most useful for teaching, but some techniques transfer over to longer documents, such as books or theses. In this post, I’ll cover columns, breaks, and line numbers. There are other tools in the Layout panel, like word wrapping, margins, and alignment, but for the most part you won’t need to use these tools in a classical studies environment. If you think we should cover them, let us know on social media or in the comments!

Word, like most word processors, defaults to single-column documents. But sometimes you’ll want more than one column. Multiple columns are most useful when you have a text that is relatively short horizontally, such as a poem or multiple-choice questions on an exam. You can use your page width more effectively by including more text per page.

To reformat your text with multiple columns, you will need to use the Layout menu or open the Layout tab in Word.

Layout panel

Then click on Columns to bring up several presets (from one column to three, and then two formatting options).

ms word columns options

If you choose One, Two, or Three columns, Word will automatically arrange them into columns of equal width with a set amount of space (called a gutter) in between them. The other two options, Left and Right, allow you to create pre-set columns of unequal width. When you select Left, the narrower column is on the left; when you select Right, the narrower column is on the right. This could be useful in creating Latin texts (with Latin in the wide column and vocab in the narrow column), but I usually choose two equal columns.

MS word column fail

What you should see in the screenshot above is a poorly executed column. Here, the original text has been narrowed to column width, but isn’t arranged in two columns. That’s because of its length. If your text is less than a page long or two halves of uneven length, you’ll need to insert a Column Break so that Word knows where to switch columns.

To start, click on Breaks (next to Columns). This will open a menu with lots of different ways to break up the type on the page. You’ll want to select Column, which will insert a column break after your cursor. Make sure you put the cursor in the right place!

ms word breaks menu

You can also get to the same dialogue box by going to the Insert menu at the top and selecting Break and then Column Break.

ms word column breaks

TIP: Notice how you get the same options, including the division into Page Breaks and Section Breaks, in both windows. You really can do it either way!

TIP 2: Don’t forget about the Breaks options. They’re important for formatting long documents, and we’ll come back to them later.

This is what the correctly-formatted column looks like. I have my invisible characters on, so you can see the column break at the bottom of Meliboeus’ line.

two columns example MS word

You can see that Vergil’s lines are a little too long for the columns. We can fix that in one of two ways: either by adjusting the font or font size, or by adjusting the margins of your column. Depending on your goals for the columns, you may want to choose one option over the other (or maybe the line breaks don’t bother you).

Let’s assume you want to adjust the margins. Some versions of Word won’t let you make the gutter too small, because that causes problems for printing. Because of this restriction, any space you give Meliboeus could take space away from Tityrus. My version of Word doesn’t have those restrictions, but if you’re planning to print at all, you should be aware that having a tiny gutter could cause misprints.

To change your margins, you use the rulers at the top of the page. (If you can’t see a ruler at the top of your page, go to the View menu and make sure Ruler has a check mark next to it.)

ms word ruler

The white spaces are your column, while the gray space is your gutter. To increase or decrease your margin, click on one of the upright white boxes and drag to make the gray space bigger or smaller.

Here’s an example of a much larger gutter:

ms word column with big gutter

And here’s an example of a much smaller gutter that fits both of my chosen texts:

ms word very small gutter

This example probably wouldn’t print. But using a combination of font size and gutter adjustment, you might be able to get to the layout you want.

TIP: If all else fails, you can print horizontally by choosing Landscape from the Orientation menu. This flips your document’s dimensions by 90 degrees.

ms word change orientation

Both will fit this way!

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, you can also provide text plus facing vocabulary using columns. In that case, you might want to manually adjust the columns to make the Latin column wider, with the gloss column relatively narrow. To adjust your column unevenly, you use both the upright square (for the smaller column) and the triangle (for the larger column).

ms word uneven columns


Lastly, if you wanted to add line numbers for ease of reference, you can do that in the Layout panel, too. First, highlight the text you want to add numbers to — otherwise, you’ll end up numbering your whole document! (TIP: this is why they invented the undo function — control-z for Windows, command-z for Mac.) Then click on the Line Numbers mini-menu next to Breaks and click on Line Numbering Options. This choice will open a new dialogue window.

At the bottom of the dialogue window, click on Line Numbers to open a second dialogue window on top of the first.

ms word add dialogue box

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 9.57.34 PM

In your new box, you’ll want to click on Add Line Numbering.

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 9.57.52 PM

I recommend counting by 5 or 10. Where you start is up to you; I have mine set at 1 because my selected text for this example came from the beginning of Eclogue 1. But if I was putting line numbers on the death of Dido, I could easily renumber to start at (for example) 641. Then hit OK, keeping the default for the last three options.

TIP: Unless you’re putting line numbers on a book, the radio buttons are not relevant to you.

Here’s what our new text looks like:

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 9.58.02 PM

Nice, right?

If you think that was a lot of work for a limited result, you’re not wrong. Adding line numbers by hand is easier if you only have a few lines to deal with. If you were putting together a course reader or a longer selection where counting out every 5 lines would be onerous, Word does the work for you.

I should also point out that there is an easier, if less visually appealing, way to add line numbers. Remember our initial Line Numbers menu? We chose Line Numbering Options, but we could choose Continuous instead. That will number every line:

continuous line numbers word

I personally don’t like this look, but it’s definitely faster.

With columns, we are almost done with our Word series! As always, let us know if there’s something we’ve missed or that you want to see.




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