Fine-Tune The Character Spacing of Text in Word


My firm’s policy is to justify the text of all reports. Although the pages do look a lot neater with the type lined up on the right and left, some lines look too spaced out and others sometimes appear squeezed. Is there a way to fix bad spacing so our reports will look more professional?

Character spacing of justified type is a common problem, and, I’m sorry to say, depending on how fussy you are, you may have to try several format tweaks before you can repair, or at least minimize, the problem.

To save time, try these steps:

Add automatic hyphenation. The hyphenation option gives Word more flexibility on where to break a line. This should reduce uneven spacing. To add the option in Word 2003, click on Tools, Language, Hyphenate and place a check in Automatically hyphenate document (see screenshot below). Notice, too, that you have some options in that screen, so you can experiment with the size of the Hyphenation zone and the number of consecutive lines you will allow with hyphens.

If you want even more flexibility, select Manual, which gives you the option, as you scan each line of type, when and where to hyphenate (see screenshot below).

If you have lots of patience and your text is set at Automatic hyphenation, and you want to selectively remove hyphens from a document, you can open Find and Replace (Ctrl+F), go to the Replace tab and in Find what, type in ^~ (the code for a regular hyphen) and in Replace with type ^s (regular space) and click on Replace. Word will take you through the document, stopping at each hyphen. For each, choose either Replace or Find Next to skip that one. On the other hand, if you want to start over and remove all the hyphens, click on Replace All. In Word 2007, access the hyphenation tool via Page Layout, Hyphenation (see screenshot below). The options are the same.

If none of the above steps resolves your concerns and you are determined to press on, you can turn on the big formatting guns—scaling. But I warn you, if you really are a stickler about text appearance, scaling can become a compulsive activity because there are so many possible adjustments. To scale in Word 2003, click on Format, Font, the Character Spacing tab and play with the Scale control until an offending line of text meets with your approval (see screenshot below).


In Word 2007, access Character Spacing by going to the Home tab and clicking on the tiny Font arrow (see screenshot at left). If you have a similar problem in Excel—that is, if character spacing in some cells is uneven—there are ways to make adjustments, however, you don’t have as much flexibility as you do in Word.

In Excel 2003, left-click in the target cell to open Format Cells and go to the Alignment tab (see screenshot below). In 2007, Ctrl+Shift+F opens the same screen.


Under Text alignment, you have several options under Horizontal and Vertical. If that doesn’t do the trick, move to Text control, where you can select either Wrap text or Shrink to fit. If a cell height in Excel 2003 doesn’t expand enough to accommodate the text, click on Format, Row, AutoFit (see screenshot to the left).

In Excel 2007, go to Home on the Ribbon and the Cells tab and click on Format (see screenshot at right).








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