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October 12, 2015

Freeform Formatting in Word

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

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Yes, it’s possible to format poetry and verse in Word. It’s ugly, but it can be done.

What I believe most poets want is some sort of freeform tools, similar to Word’s Click-and-Type, but something that doesn’t suck. They want to indent lines of text, place them at certain positions, and not have to resort to using a monotype font like Courier and whacking the spacebar to death.

At the top of this post, you see an example of such freeform text. Don’t bother scrutinizing my poetry, it’s just the Lorem Ipsum placeholder text, but I’ve formatted it similar to the way a poem would be formatted. Or at least how my poetry-ignorant mind imagines such a thing.

You could create a style in Word to format such a creature, along with a template and other doodads. It’s much easier, however, to follow this approach:

1. Type your text.

As I write in my Word For Dummies books, writing text is your first priority. Formatting can wait. If you’re crafting a poem or verse, then work on that. It’s more important than how the text looks.

2. Make one line equal to one paragraph.

You’re in for trouble if you write a line of verse longer than the page margins. It’s possible to format such a thing, but it adds a needless level of complexity to freeform text. I recommend keeping each line one paragraph. So, unlike the advice in my books, do press the Enter key at the end of a line of text.

3. Save.

Always save.

4. Set each line’s left indent.

If the Ruler isn’t visible, show the Ruler in Word: Click the View tab and place a checkmark by the Ruler item. Use the left margin gizmo, shown in Figure 2, to set the line’s left indent, its position across the page. Do this for each line in the poem.

Figure 2. Setting the line's left indent.

Figure 2. Setting the line’s left indent.

5. Adjust line spacing.

To close the gaps between two or more lines of text, select those lines. Click the Layout tab, and in the Paragraph group adjust the Spacing After setting. Make the value smaller to close up the lines; increase the value to add more space.

All these tips generally go against the way text is formatted in Word. That’s because Word is about crafting documents, not poetry. Still, if you use the techniques mentioned in this post, you could craft a series of styles and create a verse/freeform/poetry template where those styles can be easily applied.

More details on using Word’s paragraph formatting tools can be found in my book, along with advice for centering text top-to-bottom on a page, adding graphics, and other fancy foo.

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