I'm not sure this topic justifies a separate chapter in the User's Guide but the
alternative was to really bloat the basic formatting
chapter with information most people don't want or need.
Virtually all horizontal justification in Word is done with respect tab settings
or to the left or right indent (not margins). Tab settings and indents are
paragraph level formatting best set in
The screenshots here are from Word 2010, but the icons and keyboard shortcuts
shown are identical in versions from Word 97-2013. Note that the screenshots of
text include the Ruler to emphasize that the alignment is between paragraph
Indents and not page Margins. The margins are shown by the text boundaries and
on the Ruler. The Indents are not quite the same distance from the Margins. This
is to show that the centering is done to the Indents as well.
The screenshots also have display of non-printing characters turned on. The
ones visible are the paragraph marks and the dots for blank spaces.
Horizontal Alignment of Text in Microsoft Word
Unless support for some East-Asian language is installed, you will see four
icons for paragraph alignment in Word.
The screen shots below all include a fifth icon for Distributed
Text which will show up if you have East-Asian language support installed. The
command is available even if the language support is not installed, though.
This is the default.
Because of the text used above, it looks like fully-justified text, but
it is not. The text is not stretched to go all the way to the right Indent.
Full Justification / Alignment
The demonstration screen shot above shows full alignment with both a
paragraph mark at the end of a short line and a line break at the end of a short
First, permit me a slight rant. Don't use full justification!
It makes your text look nice but it is harder to read! Also don't use
hyphenation -- for the same reason. Reading is not done letter-by-letter. The
brain uses the shape of the word to determine a meaning, and even the shape of a
sentence. Both full justification and hyphenation mess with those shapes. (Done
with rant; thank you for your tolerance.)
Fully justified text in newspapers
and magazines is far more highly massaged than Word will do. This is through the
kerning and ligatures.
Full justification can be enhanced by using a Word Perfect
compatibility option -- the only WP-compatibility option that I know of that is
of any use.
Tools => Options => Compatibility (tab)
Check the box for "Do full justification like Word Perfect 6.x for
Windows." This varies the space between words to a much finer degree than
is the default for Word. Thanks to Woody's Office Watch for this tip. It still
doesn't make the text as easy to read as left-justification. This option is not
available for documents set up for Word 2013 or later.
do decide to use full alignment, just be
aware that Word is a flawed tool to produce this kind of text.
that the WordPerfect option shifts text from line to line. This option is not
available AFAIK after Word 2010 except when in compatibility mode.
Distributed Paragraph Alignment (Ctrl+Shift+J) -
an undocumented option
Unless you have support for some East-Asian Language installed, you will
see the four icons above with none showing as active. If you do have that
language support turned on, you will see five icons in the paragraph
alignment area with the fifth one being for Distributed.
This was built into Word as a part of East Asian Language Support
and is in
all versions of Word since at least Word 2003. Distributed should never be used
in English for
regular text. Note above that in the last line the parantheses and period
are counted as characters and space is used to stretch them as well.
If you have language support turned on for any East Asian Language, the icon
will be with your other paragraph formatting alignment options as shown.
Otherwise, you can add the command for Distributed Paragraph text to the Quick
Action Toolbar or a Ribbon in Word 2007 and later. It is under All Commands as "Distributed." When
added to a the QAT or Ribbon, it gives the icon although not with the other
icons. In Word 2003 you cannot display the icon (AFAIK) without installing
support for an East-Asian language. The shortcut Ctrl+Shift+J, though, is
If you display the icon, it comes with the "tooltip"
when you hover over it.
Again, I would never use Distributed for anything other than a single line
of text for a special purpose. It does not, contrary to the tooltip
shown, give a document a clean look!
My thank to Rohn and Stefan Blom for the information about the Distributed
option. The keyboard shortcut does show up for the command Distribute Para in
printed lists of commands or of keyboard shortcuts generated by Word using
the ListCommands command. I call this an undocumented option becausethe Ctrl+Shift+J Shortcut does
not show up
in the lists of Keyboard Shortcuts on the Microsoft site that I've found. As
far as I know, its use is not documented by Microsoft's site, at least not
All of the methods shown so far keep the same text on each line, they simply
move the text to different positions on a line. That is not the case with
the justification methods for Right-to-Left languages. They can ove words
from line to line.
Justification - Right-to-Left Language buttons available on QAT
The above buttons give additional options, even if you are not using a
Right-to-Left language. They give three additional degrees of justification.
Justify - High
Justify - Low
As far as I can tell, the Justify-Low setting is the same as the Full
Justify - Medium
Notice that the High and Medium settings move words from line to line. The
menu button that gives a drop-down with all of these is only active if
you have a Right-to-Left language enabled in you version of Word.
There are times when you want one column of text aligned to the left, and a
second to the right. (In Word Perfect, this is called Flush-Right.) In Word,
this is done by use of Tab settings or
Alignment Tabs that ignore those settings.
A common example of this kind of formatting is a Table
of Contents. Word will automatically define a Table of Contents in just this
Here are examples of text with the Ruler, with the non-printing tab
Note that the tabs could be set at the paragraph indents; here they are not
to make what is happening clearer. If they were set at the indents, the tab for
the left-most text would not be used, simply the indent. Note also that a right
tab could be set outside the right paragraph indent and/or the right page
The second is Flush Right with an additional Center tab.
The third example uses a Right tab to align text on the left with an even right
margin and that on the right with an even left margin. Still with a Center tab.
The fourth example shows use to line up columns to meet in the middle using tab
Other times you will want one column aligned to the left margin, a second
column centered and a third column right-aligned with the right margin. In Word
Perfect this is done in a left-justified paragraph by typing the text on the
left, pressing the Center key, typing the centered text, and then pressing
Right-Justify and typing the text for the right margin. A typical place for
doing this is in the headers and footers of a page. Both the header and the
footer Styles are set up with a center-tab and a
right-tab. If you are in either of these places, simply type your left text,
press the tab key, type your centered text, press the tab key again, and type
your right-aligned text. This is shown in the examples above.
If you need wrapping for these columns of text, whether in the body of your
document or in a header or footer, you could use a Table
in Word. Remember that each cell in a table can be aligned independently and
that you can turn off the borders for the table so that it will not print lines
between or around cells.
Otherwise you could set the Right Tab outside of the right Indent or even the
Right Margin. The screenshots below show text where this has been done. They
have the same margin settings but different indent and tab settings. Both use
dot leaders for the Right Tab. Display of non-printing formatting characters is
turned on. The first method shown below (tab set outside right indent) works in
Word 2013 and later as well as earlier versions. The second method (tab set
outside right margin) only works in Word versions 2010 and earlier.
Working with Tabs.
Vertical Justification / Alignment of Text in Microsoft Word
Just as text can be aligned to either the left or right indent (not margin) or centered horizontally with
Word, it can be aligned to the top or bottom margins of the page or centered on the page
using vertical alignment. In Word 97-2003, this is done using the Page Setup dialog found under
the File menu. In Ribbon versions of Word it is done using the same dialog
launched using the dialog launcher button on the Page Layout Group of the Page
Layout tab. These and the dialog are shown below.
The dialog box is virtually identical from Word 97-Word 2019. The controls for
vertical alignment are on the Layout tab of the dialog box in the middle. A
preview will be displayed as you pick different options. Before you click on OK
make sure your change will apply to the part of your document you want.
setting somehow gets triggered every once in a while by mistake. It may be a
rogue mouse click, a bad macro, or an upset employee. At the bottom right is a
button that would apply the choice as a default. If that happens it saves the
change in the normal template (normal.dot or normal.dotm) and will apply to all
new documents! If this has happened,
open your normal template and reset the vertical alignment the way you want
most documents to be set up. Then save and exit the template.
alignment on the page is a Section formatting property, not a paragraph
formatting property like horizontal alignment.
Justification of Text in Tables in Microsoft Word
See Using Tables for Organizing and Formatting in
Alignment to Page Margins or Left and Right Indents Rather Than
Tab Settings Using Alignment Tabs
Virtually all horizontal alignment in Word is done either in relationship
to paragraph Indents or using Tabs - both set as a part of the paragraph
formatting and often done in a Style. There are times when you want to align
according to the left and right margins or corresponding indents and ignore
tab settings. This can be done in a limited
fashion (Left, Center, and Right) using
Alignment Tabs introduced
in Word 2007.
Alignment Within Tables is Handled by Additional
To be worked on. See Cell Properties
in the meantime.
this thread for where we are going with this.