How to Format Margins in Microsoft Word

Instructor: Sebastian Garces

Sebastian has taught programming and computational thinking for University students and has Master's degree in Computer and Information Technology

In this lesson, we are going to learn about margins in Microsoft Word, including how to format them properly and how we can use this setting to power up our publishing skills when it comes to documents or books.

What Are Document Margins?

For this lesson, we are going to work with Microsoft Word 2016. If you're working in a different version of Word, the tools and settings might differ from what we're describing here.

Margins are the amount of white space we have between the edge of a page and our text in a document. Margins can be different in books, documents, magazines or journals. The amount of white space you should use is mostly a preference of the publisher more than a rule. This is why will cover how to use the default margins, and how to format special margin types for different publishing purposes.

Margins: Default or Custom

Microsoft Word comes with default margin templates that we can access and use. We just need to find the Layout Tab in the top menu. The first option there is Margins:

Default Margins
Margin Menu in Layout

There are a couple of default margin options that we can work with simply by clicking on them.

Custom Margins

If we need to set specific values for our margins, we can click on Custom Margins.

Custom Margins
Custom Margin Option

Here we can set up the margins individually. deciding exactly how much space we need. The preview sheet will let us make better decisions before applying the changes to our document.

Custom Margins Pane
Custom Margins Pane

Mirror Margins

You may have noticed that, in both the default and custom margins menus, there is an option for mirror margins. Mirror margins are the ones what we want to use when we want to create full documents like reports, books, magazines, or any type of document that is either going to have a double-sided page or a particular type of binding.

Notice that when we set the margin type to mirror margins, our whole document is going to adapt the pages to evens and odds according to the gutter value. The gutter is the amount of extra space to add to the margin that is going to be attached to the binder or cover, giving us some extra space to ensure that all of the text is readable on the page once it is printed and bound. Keep in mind that the gutter space is going to be on the right side on odd pages and on the left side for even pages.

Gutter Value
Gutter Space in Word

Page Number

If we are working on a document to be published, we are most likely to need page numbers. With the different types of margins, page numbers can become tricky sometimes, so let's see the main differences between numbering different types of margins.

First, to insert the page numbers, we need to find the option in the Insert tab in the top menu:

Adding Page Number
Page Number Menu

Once we add the page number, we need to select two things: position and alignment. Position describes whether the page number is at the top of the page or at the bottom. Alignment specifies whether the page number should be on the left, on the right, or in the center of the page.

Alignment can get tricky when we're printing and binding a document. If we select left or right, the number is always going to be on this side no matter the position of the page. This works fine with standard documents that aren't going to be bound. But if we are working on something to be published, we need to check the inside and outside options. This will let us choose if we want the page number on the same side we have the gutter space, or on the opposite side.

Selecting Alignment and Position
Page Number Options

When we work with mirrored margins and choose inside or outside alignment, we also need to be aware that the position of the page number is always going to be different between even and odd pages.

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