Making Columns the Same Length

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 25, 2020)

1

Don is working with documents that have two columns and then a section of one column and then a larger section of three columns. In the three-column section, Don wonders how he can get the three columns to be the same length as each other.

This concept of making column lengths (or, more precisely, column depths) the same as each other is referred to as balancing. Balanced column depth provides a more pleasing appearance on the printed page, but it can be more complicated than one would expect. The biggest complication is calculating the vertical space required for the columns. The reason is because vertical space is affected by such settings as line spacing, paragraph spacing (before and after), and font sizes used. Also affecting vertical text flow (from column to column) will be things like your "keep together" and "keep with" paragraph settings, as well as whether there are objects within the columns (graphics or text boxes) around which the text must flow.

Since this flow of text among the columns can be affected by so many different things, it is best to allow Word, itself, to do the balancing. The easiest way to force Word to make the "tough decisions" is to simply put a continuous section break after the text in the third column. Follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point at the end of the text in the third column.
  2. Display the Page Layout (Layout in later versions of Word) tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click on the drop-down arrow at the right of the Breaks tool. Word displays a number of types of breaks you could enter.
  4. Choose the Continuous option. Word inserts the section break.

That's it; Word does its best to balance the depth of each of the three columns. If you later add text, delete text, or change formatting in the three columns, Word will once again automatically attempt to balance out the columns.

It should be noted that column balancing in Word is not as precise as it is in specialized page layout software such as InDesign. In such software, balancing is accomplished by adding very small increments of space between each line in a column, whereas in Word the balancing is "rougher" in nature. For most purposes short of professional typesetting or publishing, though, the Word approach will be satisfactory.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12862) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Performing Calculations while Filtering

The advanced filtering capabilities of Excel allow you to easily perform comparisons and calculations while doing the ...

Discover More

Footnotes within Footnotes

Need to add footnotes to your footnotes? It's actually allowed by some style guides, but Word doesn't make it so easy.

Discover More

Getting a Double-Spaced Printout

When working with printed documents, many people prefer to see the document double-spaced. If you have a single-spaced ...

Discover More

The First and Last Word on Word! Bestselling For Dummies author Dan Gookin puts his usual fun and friendly candor back to work to show you how to navigate Word 2013. Spend more time working and less time trying to figure it all out! Check out Word 2013 For Dummies today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Adding Columns to Your Page Layout

Most documents are created using a single column of text. Word, however, allows you to use many, many columns in your ...

Discover More

Quickly Changing Columns

You can use the Columns tool, available on the Page Layout or Layout tab (depending on which version of Word you are ...

Discover More

Displaying a Column Number

Word allows you to format your document to use columns. If you want to number those columns for a printout, Word provides ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three less than 5?

2020-04-25 04:37:05

Padraig McCarthy

Simpler way: Select the text you want to have in columns. Just make sure that there is text (even just spaces) following the selection. With the text selected, activate the columns window: Alt+o. Choose the number of columns you want. Select other options - Line, Spacing. Click Okay.
The selected text is automatically formatted into the columns, approximately equal. No need to insert a Break manually.
If you want all the text in equal columns, proceed as above, just making sure that there is at least one line or space following the selected text which is not included in the selection.


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.