Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. 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: Understanding Point Sizes.

Understanding Point Sizes

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 24, 2021)

A point is a typographical term for a unit of measure. It is equivalent to 1/72 of an inch. Points are understood and used extensively by everyone in the publishing trade, particularly in design, typesetting, and printing. They are most commonly used with type specifications. Word uses point sizes to specify the height of all the fonts it uses. Thus, when you use a 12-point type, you are using one that occupies a character box approximately 12/72 (or 1/6) of an inch high from the top of the highest riser, to the bottom of the lowest descender. Likewise, 72-point type uses a character box that is about one inch tall.

In typesetting, points are also the measurement of choice when specifying line leading (as discussed in a different tip). It is not uncommon to specify type in the format 10/12, meaning 10-point type on 12-point line leading.

If you are familiar with points, you can use them as a standard measurement in Word. When entering a measurement in points, simply use the characters pt at the end of the measurement. Alternately, you can set your default measurement to points by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Select the Advanced option at the left of the dialog box.
  3. Scroll down until you can see the Display section. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Advanced options of the Word Options dialog box.

  5. Use the Show Measurements in Units drop-down list to choose Points.
  6. Click OK to save the change.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8797) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Point Sizes.

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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