Paragraph Characteristics

MS Word for Writers Basic MS Word Skills Every Writer Needs
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Next up our paragraph characteristics. This will affect the line spacing between your text, the spacing between paragraphs of text, and also includes things like bullet point lists or numbered list outline levels, and can include borders, which might be something that creeps up on you accidentally when you're adding scene breaks in your manuscript. So let's begin. We are here in the document that I have displayed on my screen right now, you'll notice that there is no indent on the left. And if you're a fiction writer, you'll note that this is something that is standard. In all fiction paragraphs begin with a moderate indent.

In the old days, we used to always invent half an inch and that may be the standard you want to use when you're at the level of submitting manuscripts. But then when you're ready To actually physically publish or self publish independently publish your book. Often in printed books, those indents for the beginning of each line are much narrower. And I'll talk you through that in our end game phase if you're interested in formatting your book yourself for print. But for now, let's talk more about how you can affect all of those changes for yourself and reset your computer to automatically make those the default settings each time you open up a new document. So if you primarily write just fiction or just nonfiction, I'll show you the ways that you can set yourself up for success there to save yourself time with every new document you create.

First, let's start easy. The text on our page at the moment in terms of alignment is called left aligned. Now, these buttons are available here in the paragraph area of the Home ribbon toolbar. And there are four buttons for different kinds of alignments and Their symbols demonstrate the alignment that you get. So with Left Alignment, there is a straight edge on the left hand side but a ragged edge on the right hand side of the paragraph. centering, you're probably very familiar with this, we'll change all the texts so that each line extends to the width of it and is centered so with no extra space between words to space it out.

It's just centered the width that it's at. You may or may not have ever seen something right aligned unless perhaps you're an accountant and then you like things to be aligned at the dollar or decimal point level. Right alignments very common for them or decimal point alignment it can be known at, but I also very, very, very much want to demonstrate the power of justified alignment. And this is when text has no ragged left edge and no ragged right edge. Do you notice I'll compare it to To the paragraph here below where we still have our ragged right edge. It's been a justified text takes advantage of the full length, the full width, excuse me the full width of your document, pick up any traditionally published book off your shelf, and its main body text is going to use this justified alignment where there are no ragged right or left edges.

The exception is typically in bullet pointed lists or numbered lists, where they do employ left aligned with a ragged right edge there. But for the most part, your finished document text is going to be fully aligned. Now this is a choice you can make if it disturbs you highly to see fully aligned text while you're writing. Certainly not while you're drafting or in the editing phase. Just turn that feature off. It won't affect a thing to move forward with that only if you're at that end game and you want your book to Look indistinguishable from traditionally published print.

That's when you really need to worry about this particular feature. Okay, the one that may be getting you now though, if you're a fiction writer is having space between your paragraphs that might be absolutely annoying. And here is the spot where you can affect that. I'm going to select multiple paragraphs on the page here so we can see the difference in action. Now the next button to the right of those alignment features, this is where our line and Paragraph Spacing hides. Notice there's a drop down arrow on this button.

There are several automatic choices you can make. For true single spacing. Notice how that's a little tighter than the factory default we had before. Here is a hover because I selected text before I push this button. That's why we're seeing it automatically update below just the highlighted text those two paragraphs, single spacing the modern factory default of 1.15, line spacing, or some other options of line and a half, or double spacing, which we typically use when we're going to submit to editors and agents, or some other variations of two and a half or triple spacing between lines. You'll also see that you can add space before paragraphs and add or remove space after paragraphs.

So depending on whether the features are turned on and off, these bottom two buttons will update. So if I remove that space, before the paragraph, or after the paragraph, excuse me, you'll notice that it disappeared here between our two paragraphs, but not down below and we did not highlight that text to make the change effect. So now this time if I turn on the same button, you'll see it no longer says remove space after paragraph. Now it says add space because we've already removed it. Our only choice would be to put it back if we wanted that. Now if you want to see all the choices available, you'll click the line spacing options text in order to open up the dialog box that allows you to affect all of those changes in one place.

It will allow you to select your alignment either left centered right or justified, you can affect outline levels which are merely indents. To take you across the page, you can set an indentation level. So perhaps you want that left indent to be half an inch, you could fill in point five there, you may choose if you're going to add some super fancy quotes, you may want to indent both sides so you can add that dimension here in the right indent area. Or what's even smarter would be to leave those set but use some of the automated features for first line indent or hanging in dense. Okay, here's what the difference is between these two first line indent will and you'll see in the preview box down below an option and what this looks like it will automatically indent the first line of every paragraph that you're about to type or that you've highlighted before you make the selection, and will automatically indent that first line, and you can choose the indent distance.

So half an inch is standard. If you're using eight and a half by 11, or letter size pages there, but it's a finished project area, you may choose a first line indent that's more narrow, perhaps three tenths of an inch or even two tenths of an inch depending on your finished book size. Note that that's an option. What's the difference between first line indent and hanging indent though, hanging indent functions just the opposite of first line indent. So that first line is out at the margin edge there and all the subsequent lines become indented. Wherever would you use this, you would use this in bibliographies, or reference lists at the end of a document where the author's name out here, or the book title would be at the margin on the left, and then subsequent lines would be indented.

So that allows you to easily skim that list of resources and pull out the ones that you want without having to squint or struggle for change there. So first line indents typically are used within the text itself, and hanging indents used within reference or citation lists, or you can choose no indent at all. And that's certainly an option as well. The spacing section of this is like our line spacing, so adding space before paragraphs, and notice here on the preview feature, it adds it between the paragraph that was highlighted and the paragraph above it, or if we add space after notice that it fits that space in below the paragraph that was highlighted. Yeah. Of course, if you want to effect this change throughout your entire document, before you come to this feature, you'll want to select all of your text and let me show you how to do that now.

So here is the quick, easy way to do that there are a couple of methods. One is located on your Home ribbon toolbar, all the way out of the right, it's called select. And one of the drop down menu choices is select all. And by clicking that it will automatically highlight all of the text in your document. So if you're dealing with a very lengthy let's say, 100,000 word epic, this can be super fast for you to select all of your text so that you can go make your changes. Now, another way to accomplish the same thing is using a keyboard shortcut.

And notice again, if we hover over the tool, and wait, it will tell us that keyboard shortcut in the box that pops up. So to select all with a keyboard shortcut, you are going to press and hold The Ctrl or Command key and type the letter A. And again, that will highlight all of your text. Now, if we go back to that paragraph feature, and we're going to, let's say add a first line indent, and make sure that there is no space before or after, I'm just going to fill those in with zeros there. Before or after your lines. Let's say you're writing fiction, which would have that first line indent, no space before after, and maybe you want true single spacing, you can choose that in the line spacing area here.

Or if you're like me, you might use 1.15. Or another standard in traditional publishing is 1.08 that you might choose to use. It's a multiple line spacing, but not really multiple because it doesn't feel too fat. You can make those selections and apply it with the ok button and this will then add that feature throughout your document. But here's a secret ninja stealth trip trick. If you primarily write in one field or other, you can use this set as default button to have it affect automatically the default alignment and indentation and spacing of paragraphs not only in this document, but in all future documents based on this template.

Makes sense. So you can click that OK button. And now every time you begin a new document, it will open with that same settings for paragraph and line spacing and indentation that you've selected above. Now, let's say you write nonfiction instead. Here are the standards for nonfiction and Microsoft Word. This is pretty much the default that you'll get out of the factory from them.

With nonfiction typically we're looking at no indentation, but having a six point space after each paragraph, which is pretty much where we began the document. These days. So, once more with nonfiction typically there is no indent just grab a book off of your own bookshelf and check this out to see if it plays out. The common exceptions are with memoir because memoir does jump the line between fiction and nonfiction in terms of its formatting, but certainly and how to and textbooks, you'll notice that it's no indent with extra space between each of the paragraphs there. But if you're a fiction writer, you'll prefer to set yours to a first line indent. And again while you're drafting and working half an inch is just fine.

And then go ahead and click OK. And you'll see how that automatically updates your entire document that you've selected to reflect that first line indent and no space between the paragraphs. Now, we'll show you secrets to formatting your chapter headers later, but just a quick trip trick For now, if you get those chapter headers indented and you don't want them to be invented, the very tiny fix you might make without knowing anything about styles later is to place your cursor in front of that first letter and then press the backspace key. And that will move it. That's one way to move it back to the margin. Now if I undo and put it back the way it was, the second way that you can change that is on your ruler at just below the toolbar. And if you don't see that ruler toolbar there, you can access it from the View menu and click on or off the ruler toolbar there.

But then head back to home. Since most of the tools that you're going to use are located on that Home tab, and I don't want you searching later to find it. Then grab the indent arrow, the one that's hanging on the top and drag it back to your margin. That's a second way to do it. But personally I find that takes a lot more people Time and mouse skill, then simply pressing the backspace key which will move it all the way back to the margin. Of course, in Microsoft Word, there are many, many, many ways to do each thing.

So a third way that you could accomplish the same thing is here in our paragraph area, you can decrease the indent. But note that in this case, it doesn't work. So you would have to use the backspace or change your first line indent on here. But let's say that you instead wanted to increase the end that will work even at the chapter, or even at the first line indent level, where increasing and decreasing indents is most frequently used though, is with lists and we'll talk about those next. Okay, I'm about to type a list of groceries that I need because sometimes when I'm writing fiction, I can't focus on my characters until I get these things out of my brain and list them down to So I'm just going to write them here in my document for the moment, and we'll talk about how to play with them in just a moment.

So for my particular list right now I need milk I need spinach, and there's this great wheat flatbread that I'm loving. So if I'm going to make a list to just play along for the moment, I've typed out my items, but what if in your document, you want to make them a bullet pointed list? First, you can either highlight your text, and then click the bullet points. So if you've already typed the items in your list, come up to the paragraph area and select that you'll notice that it automatically indents them from where they were the text itself is indented, a full more half inch and the bullet points are added a quarter of an inch back. So looking we can see that specifically on our ruler here. The left hand margin is what we'll call zero.

The primary indent first line indent is at half an inch. And we'll see that this highlighted text right now, the bullet is shown at three quarters of an inch, and the main text begins at one inch. So that is your automated bullet feature, it does add indent to what you already have. So if you did not want that to be extra indent, then you can use that decrease indent button that we talked about a moment ago to switch that back to your primary indent level. Or even in the case of lists, back to the full margin. All of those are your choices.

But notice that many of these buttons in addition to their primary button area, they also have a drop down arrow that will allow you to select some cool alternatives. So perhaps you would like to use a fancy bullet point. I encourage you to use this sparingly or perhaps you like checkmarks if you're writing a how to and you want to indicate to your audience items that are done. You can then add these Or you can even define a new bullet if you want to create a design of your very, very own. So there are circles, squares, checkmarks and diamonds in the automated feature here. So you can grab those to update your bullet point text to the design that you want.

But perhaps your list is something that's numeric. So instead, you would use the number list here beside that and note that it features not only numbers, so if you grab that drop down arrow, you can also use outline levels, so perhaps it's capital alphabet letters, or lower lowercase alphabet letters. Notice there are choices for these letters using parentheses behind them or period punctuation behind them, or even Roman numerals uppercase and lowercase Case available as options. And note that in these Roman numerals, they are decimal aligned. So the one two and three, which would flow with a no ragged left edge in the Arabic numbers. In Roman numerals, they decimal align so that you will always see the period behind them be the thing that lines up.

Whereas in the alphabet or the numbers, it's the left edge that lines up. Make sense. All right. Now let's say that this is a super ninja stealth trick here. Let's say that you've begun a list at one portion of your text, but don't pick it up automatically. Perhaps you come down to a later area of your text and want to continue the same list with the very next number, rather than reverting to another 123.

Let me show you another way that if you haven't yet typed your list, you can create that feature right from the start, come and turn the feature on first for numbering. Now type the next items in your list. What else do I need from this store? I think that I could use some sour cream. I could use some a case of water because sometimes I entertain students at the house. So we just want something quick to grab to stay hydrated.

And then finally, let's grab a box of tissues. Okay, so notice now that my automated feature, numbered my list again 123. But for me, this is a continuation of an earlier list. And while it's probably not going to be a grocery list in your nonfiction book, that there may be a prime example of what you want to use there to affect change in this area. highlight the text that you want to change the numbers for utilize that drop down arrow next to the numbered feature and come down to set numbering value. This will allow you to ask it to continue from the previous list, and then click OK.

But note because it's so far away, it didn't understand what that was. So you may have to dig a little deeper, and then instead, have it set the starting value to be four. So that Oh, and now look, now it mentally connected those two. Make sense. This is how you can do that. Now, note that I'm here at the bottom of my list.

Right now the cursor is flashing at the end of line number six. Note that my numbering feature is still turned on. Now what if you want to get out of that numbered list. Notice that my cursor is at the end of the entry for number six, and the numbering feature is still turned on. If I click Enter to go down note that it automatically adds the next time Number in my list, I didn't have to do anything to get that there, I can either come up to the toolbar with my mouse and turn the number feature off, which then moves me back to the cursor there to the left hand edge of my screen. Or, if I'm there, I can simply press enter a second time, and it will move me to a new paragraph.

So notice the indent makes sense. So two ways to turn that off, you can either press Enter down to a new line and then turn the feature off so that it's no longer gray. Or you can simply press Enter twice, and it will move you to your next paragraph. Now, there are a couple of other features in this paragraph area I want to make you aware of, one of which is an outline level. So if you've already used tabs to set up various levels of text within your document, you can change those to the alternating. This is what I grew up with the Roman numerals alternating with patterns Little letters and then each in setlist gets numbers or lowercase numbers, and so on and so forth.

Or you can define a new list style. They have some basics here to choose from. But if none of those meet your specific needs, allow yourself to define a new list and you can select what each of those levels is going to be. Alright, next for but very much fun. I was recently editing a document that was a list of I think 79 different words that you could use instead of the verb walked. So for variety, and I wanted to alphabetize this list so I could easily find alternatives.

And I had forgotten that this feature existed, so I definitely want to share it with you today. Highlight the items in your list, and then here in the paragraph area, you can use the sort button this little A to Z with a downward arrow to automatically alphabetize your list. Wow, super cool. Now in a list of three that was not so complicated, but when you get lists of 510 20, or if your library and alphabetizing skills are not as sharp as they used to be, this is a lovely piece that you can use. Okay, a couple more things in this area before we head out. What if you want to add a seam break in your document?

Chances are that you've read a book, where you will see dividing two sections of paragraphs you'll see three asterisks, centered. Now we know how to find that on our toolbar centered, and that separates different scenes in our book. But if you're typing along and put your three asterisks there, watch what happens when as soon as I press the Enter key to go down to a new paragraph. Did your writer brain just about Friday Right, maybe this has happened to you, where all of a sudden your screen fills with dots. And there is no amount of backspacing or deleting that will get rid of this. It is just there now, and apparently we're stuck with it, I want to show you how to turn that feature off and tell you what it is that actually happened.

And moreover, give you a way that you can instantly get rid of it and move on with your document. So let's say you just had this happen to you and you typed your three asterisks and pressed enter and it converted into a border. That's what happened. It converted it into a border line. And so one way that you can get rid of that is by turning off the know, by highlighting first by highlighting the area where this exists, and then using the border feature to turn no border, but that also took away your asterisk then that ultimately was not what we were aiming for. So if I undo and put that back Order back.

Noting what had just happened was I typed three asterisks, and then I pressed enter. The simplest way to get your asterisk back is to undo. And notice when I hover above that undo era, it doesn't say undo typing. It says undo auto format. This is an autocorrect feature that is automatically shifted three asterisks plus and enter into a borderline. So we're going to undo just the auto format.

And notice how it brings our three asterisks back. Now there's some other elements that trouble me as a designer and editor. The fact that this particular line of text is indented, it makes the asterisks right a little bit right of center. So if that's happening to you, as well, note that you can just shift this back to the margin from your ruler or You can park your cursor in front of your asterisks and then Backspace, backspace again, till you're back at that left hand margin and then apply the centering. And now you'll get true centering along your ribbon. Make sense?

Just a couple of options there to help you out. We'll see different and more efficient ways to do all of this a little bit later. But as we're hearing the basics, I just want to show you a simple quick way that you can grasp on so that you can get to the most important part your writing. Okay, just two things left to talk about in this paragraphs area of our lecture. One of them is this paragraph symbol. You may have learned back in school that in handwritten editing like when you turned in a paper to your high school teacher, they might draw this backwards p symbol to indicate that you should add a paragraph break what this is symbol means and what the tool turns on in Microsoft Word is a feature that will show you anywhere where the enter button has been pressed.

So this can be very disturbing if the feature has gotten turned on and you didn't know what button you press and you can't you think maybe you need to Backspace to move these and there's just no way to delete them. These This is a feature a tool called show and hide. It tells you where your paragraphs are located but there's no way to delete the symbols, you can simply turn off the button. But if you're curious why things are tabbed or paragraphs the way that they are turning on this feature will show you those paragraph line breaks. Notice it will also put a dot anywhere that the spacebar has been pressed. So this would be one way to tell whether you have two spaces or one space between sentences.

You can see by the number of dots Between the sentences, what has been used there and make that appropriate choices. But when you're fed up with seeing that, just remember on the Home ribbon toolbar in the paragraph area, turn off your show hide button, and that will remove those special characters. Okay, last but not least, is the paragraph settings more button. So just as we saw that more button in the font characteristics, we also see it down in the corner of the paragraph button. And this is again, where you can access the same feature that we saw earlier by dropping down the indents and line spacing button here. Now we see the exact same features as long as well as the Set as Default button.

But note that we also see the tab button I don't think I pointed this out before. If you are someone that works in accounting, you may want to set tabs across the page so that you can line up columns of text or numbers. And all the features that were available to us on our old style typewriters we can do right here. But even better, we can also set center tabs. So tabs that would center text, we can set right aligned tabs. So many times you'll see this with text that set all the way out to the right hand edge, it might be your name at the top of a manuscript suggestion, submission, excuse me, or we can see decimal alignment tabs.

This would be if you had a list of dollar amounts, that decimal point would keep it flush regardless of whether you were talking about $1 and 53 cents or a million dollars and 53 cents. Then last but not least in the tabs area are the fill in the known as the leader the space between the text and the tab can be blank. It can have a series of Have dots which you may be familiar with from viewing tables of contents in the past. These are called leader dots. Or it could be dashes or underscores. All of those are possible but the most common is either none or the leader dots.

And just to show create an example, I'll show you setting up a tab position at the very right hand edge of our margin, which is going to be six and a half inches. Since I'm working in a letter size document on the line where my cursor was located, before I open this box up, I'm about to set a tab at 6.5 inches. That is a I'm going to set it as a right aligned tab and I'll use the page numbers as an example. With leader dots. Make sense? You can select all of these independent of one another, and then be sure and set your tab before you click OK. With me so far, okay, now The area where I've added this special right aligned tab with leader dots is on my first bullet pointed list.

So let me show you how to turn this feature on with your cursor at the end of the word where you want to enact that tab and maybe have a page number out at the right, just press the Tab key on your keyboard. It's on the left hand side, usually about the fourth row up. Notice that it fills in the leader dots, and you can add your page number out to the right and that will stay flush at the right edge regardless of how many decimal places you add. So that's two insider tricks for adding leader dots especially useful in tables of contents and adding right aligned tabs. Hope you enjoyed that. And then last but not least, you can also access the line and page breaks area.

I got to this by clicking the More button in the paragraph area. And switching from the indents and spacing tab that was open first, over to the line and page breaks tab. Notice that probably the only feature that's clicked on right now is widow and orphan control. Let me tell you briefly what those are about. widows and orphans are single lines of a paragraph left either by themselves at the bottom of a page, or at the top of the page. So let's imagine one of my three line paragraphs behind us.

Let's imagine for a moment that it fell at the bottom of a page. If the widow and orphan feature is on, it will move the full paragraph to the next page because it doesn't want to leave one line all by itself that would be a widow or an orphan, whether that depending on whether that line is the one by itself at the bottom or at the top of the next page. So we can choose then to turn this feature on or off. So if you are trying to conserve your printer ink, you may the toner, you may want to turn this off so that as much text fits per page as possible. But at the final stages of formatting widow and orphan control is industry standard in the printing world, we don't want to leave single lines of multi line paragraphs on their own at the bottom or top of pages.

So that will be a feature you can check here on the line and page breaks area. And that is our paragraph section. Hope you enjoyed

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