Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Getting Rid of Choppiness in Justified Text.

Getting Rid of Choppiness in Justified Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 10, 2017)


Depending on the characteristics of the text in your document, you might notice that justifying a paragraph may not produce the best looking results. This is because when you choose to justify a paragraph, Word expands the text on each line by adding space between words and letters. This may not always give the best-looking results, and you may need to make adjustments to get better-looking text.

There are many options you can try, and you should become familiar with all of them so that you can try them out on your text. The first guideline is to check your text; there may be some things you can do to it that will allow cleaner flowing through a paragraph:

  • Be sure you have no unnecessary hard spaces or hard hyphens (search and replace ^s with regular space, ^~ with regular hyphen). These force Word to treat adjacent words as a single item, thereby forcing awkward end-of-line adjustments.
  • Turning on hyphenation or doing manual hyphenation on offending lines similarly reduces the risk of awkward line breaks.
  • Select a font size suited to the line length, or vice versa. Large fonts need longer lines to maintain smooth spacing; smaller fonts can afford shorter lines.

With your text in shape, you can then begin actual formatting. One approach is to display the Character Spacing tab of the Font dialog box (press Ctrl+D) and set the Scale control to 95%. If that does not provide better spacing, scale it down to 90%. These adjustments are typically so slight (particularly with commonly used font sizes for body text) that readers won't notice, but the effect on text flow could be dramatic—particularly in long paragraphs.

Perhaps the best solution, however, is to completely change the algorithm that Word uses to justify text. Many people prefer the algorithm used in WordPerfect, so Microsoft added the ability to emulate that justification method—resulting in much less choppiness. You can adjust the setting by following these steps:

  1. Click the Office button and then click Word Options. Word displays the Word Options dialog box.
  2. At the left of the dialog box click Advanced.
  3. Scroll to the every end of the options in the dialog box.
  4. Click the plus sign to the left of Layout Options. Word shows a long list of compatibility options it can use. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The compatibility options available in Word.

  6. Choose the Do Full Justification like WordPerfect 6.x for Windows option.
  7. Click OK to close the Word Options dialog box.

This will change the way justification is handled, but only for the current document. If you want the change to affect other documents, you'll need to open the templates on which those documents are based (such as the Normal template), make the change in the template, and then save the template. If you have many documents that you might need to change (or if you routinely work with documents from others that you need to change), then you can create a macro that will modify the justification setting:

Sub ChangeJustification()
    With ActiveDocument
        .Compatibility(wdWPJustification) = True
    End With
End Sub

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8139) applies to Microsoft Word 2007. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Getting Rid of Choppiness in Justified Text.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 5 + 0?

2017-03-07 20:23:04


Thank you very much. Finally somebody had the answer to my problem.

2016-12-03 12:46:54


Your solution did not work. Extra spacing remains.

2016-06-21 09:46:06


Thank you so much for this helpful post

2016-03-11 01:40:46


Does MS Word 2016 support WordPerfect justification of Text?

Will the Macro work in MS Word 2016?

2015-06-07 07:52:38

Maryland, USA

Check your paragraph styles' spacing settings.If "Don't hyphenate" is selected, clear it.

Also make sure each style's "Language" is set to English or (in the USA) American English.

2015-06-06 09:43:20


This is perfect. I tried it and it worked very very well. thanks alot.

2014-06-25 12:34:12


MS Office 2013: I did this in one .docx and the text flows so much better! The options showed without having to click a + sign.
But in another .docx the options do not show, nor is there a + sign to the left of the Layout Options.
Any suggestions as to how to get to the list?

2012-09-22 21:54:17


My document has justified text. Under the paragraph dialog, I have left Don't Hyphenate unchecked. However, the doucment text doesnt' auto-hyphenate. Text looks okay onscreen both in Word and after I print to PDF. Upon sending the PDF the laser printer or directly to the photocopier, the text alters on the page. It leaves big gaps not only between words, but puts horizontal white space between letters. It makes the documents look terible! Help?

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