Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 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 Paragraph Alignment.

Understanding Paragraph Alignment

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 22, 2021)

2

One of the fundamental typographic specifications for laying out paragraphs is determining how they will appear in relation to the left and right margins. Word refers to this specification as alignment. There are four types of paragraph alignment you can set within Word:

  • Left-aligned. All lines in the paragraph butt up against the left text margin. No extra spaces are added to the line. The text of each line does not line up with the right margin, so traditional typesetting terminology often refers to left-aligned text as ragged right.
  • Center-aligned. All lines in a paragraph are centered between the left and right text margins. No extra spaces are added to the line. The text lines up with neither the left nor right margins.
  • Right-aligned. All lines in a paragraph butt up against the right text margin. No extra spaces are added to the line. The text of each line does not line up with the left margin, so traditional typesetting terminology often refers to right-aligned text as ragged left.
  • Justified. All lines in a paragraph are expanded so they butt up against both the left and right text margins. Space is added, between words and characters, as necessary to fill out the line. In some typesetting references justified text is also referred to as "full justified."

You can change the alignment of any paragraph by using the appropriate tools on the Home tab of the ribbon or by displaying the Paragraph dialog box.

There is also an undocumented alignment for paragraphs called "distributed text justification." This alignment is very similar to Justified alignment, except it also forces the last line of the paragraph—regardless of how short it is—to be stretched all the way to the right margin. You can only access this alignment type by placing the insertion point within the paragraph and pressing Ctrl+Shift+J.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13051) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Understanding Paragraph Alignment.

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

Two-Level Axis Labels

Need a chart that uses two lines for axis labels? It's easy to do if you know how to set up your data in the worksheet, ...

Discover More

Store Common Addresses in Building Blocks

Do you write letters to lots of different people? One good place to keep those addresses is in Building Blocks. They are ...

Discover More

Missing Top and Bottom Margins

You get your document set up just the way you want it, and then notice that all of a sudden Word doesn't show any top or ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Getting Rid of Choppiness in Justified Text

Justified text doesn't always produce the best-looking results. Here's how to avoid some of the choppiness that can occur.

Discover More

Tabbing Beyond the Right Margin

There may be times when you would like to use some tabs in order to extend text to the right of the main text in your ...

Discover More

Characters in the Margin Next to Paragraphs

Laying out a document can be, at times, a challenge. This is particularly the case when you need some special document ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 seven less than 7?

2021-05-24 11:18:40

Andrew

Distributed text justification is not quite undocumented. For example, it is documented at
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/office/vba/api/Word.WdParagraphAlignment
as
wdAlignParagraphDistribute 4 Paragraph characters are distributed to fill the entire width of the paragraph.
and is available through VBA via macros and such.

What I find interesting are the other "full" justification settings:
wdAlignParagraphJustify 3 Fully justified.
wdAlignParagraphJustifyHi 7 Justified with a high character compression ratio.
wdAlignParagraphJustifyLow 8 Justified with a low character compression ratio.
wdAlignParagraphJustifyMed 5 Justified with a medium character compression ratio.

Brief experimentation shows a "higher" compression ratio gives wider (looser ) results, with "Low" character compression being about the same as "Fully justified." and "high" being the loosest .

Andy.


2021-05-22 11:56:33

mark a sippel

"You can change the alignment of any paragraph by using the appropriate tools on the Home tab of the ribbon or by displaying the Paragraph dialog box."
I do not mean to sound harsh here. I am a lawyer inside word perfect I have to use word some to survive other's stuff, and some of theirs makes little sense to me. '

For those (like me) who are not gurus, this makes little sense. This is what you should have talked about. It is like, "you gotta know this to learn this to know." By the time I actually get to know this, it's value is shot.

And that ruler line with the box and up and down thingie and tabs vs using a "left line indent" and that this is by default only a paragraph at a time and I want it to stick. and does this work in the block indent temporary left margin?


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.

Videos
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.