line length

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Although it is traditional to have pages of small text in reports which stretches from margin to margin, long lines are not ideal and handouts and instructions will be a lot clearer if the line length is restricted to about 4 inches. This is the width that the human eye can read easily with minimal movement and you should certainly minimise the head movement needed when reading your paragraphs. Too narrow lines of text will tend to make text jerky and longer words will demand new lines which can leave odd spacing.

Increasing font size can permit slightly longer lines as the text can be read from further away but most people tend not to move much!

One simple solution for text to be printed is to increase the margins in Word. It’s very simple. Just use File|Page Setup and select the Margins tab. In there change the default settings. For an A4 page that is about 21cm or 8” wide, left and right margins of 5cm or 2” will work nicely.

Another method is to use columns. Existing text can be put into columns by selecting it all and using Format|Columns and clicking on the 2-column picture (and tick the equal width box if necessary). Columns can be a bit awkward to control sometimes and this method won’t change the way text is displayed on a web version of your document. It can be a quick and effective solution however, especially with well positioned images in the text.


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page updated by Andrew Hill, Dunstable College 24 July, 2006