Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Determining Page Layout.

Determining Page Layout

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 20, 2015)

One of the first tasks you must do when planning your document is determine how you want it to look when you are done. This is called page layout. The process of determining page layout is called page design. To create an effective layout, you must first understand the relationship between the page and page margins.

First of all, the page is the sheet of paper to which you will be printing. Margins are how much white space you want to leave around the edges of the paper. Margins may vary within a document, but paper size never varies. You can determine your printable area on a page by adding your margin measurements and subtracting it from your page size. How you determine your layout from here depends on if you are printing single sheets or facing pages. In printing single sheets, it is assumed that every page is alike. In printing facing pages, you are designing both left and right pages. In this case, margins are typically adjusted to allow for binding of the finished product.

For instance, assume you will be printing single sheets. If you are using a page size of 8.5 x 11 inches, and your left and right margins are both 1.25 inches, then your horizontal printable area is 6 inches (8.5 minus 2.5, which is the total of the left and right margins). If your top margin is 1 inch and your bottom margin is 1.5 inches, then your vertical printing area is 8.5 inches (11 minus 2.5, which is the total of the top and bottom margins).

When you are setting your page margins, you may also need to worry about the gutter margin. This is particularly true if you are printing facing pages. The gutter margin is an additional margin, added to the inside page margin, to allow for binding. Thus, in the previous example, if you were printing facing pages and your gutter margin was .75 inches, then your horizontal printing area would be only 5.25 inches (8.25 minus 3.25, which is the sum of the left, right, and gutter margin).

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9385) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Determining Page Layout.

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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