3. Adjusting Page Margins

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Page margins have a significant impact on the layout of a document. Learn the optimal margins for different documents, including double-sided bound documents.


Lesson Goal

Identify how margin settings affect the layout of a document.

What’s a margin?

The margin is the space to the left and right of the text. They help define where a line of text begins and ends.

In Word, margin settings can be found in the Layout tab. This is because, unlike Page Views, changing the margin affects the arrangement of the document for all users and for the printed version.

Margins are a standard in almost all documents because they make them easier to read. Documents that don’t use any margins are cluttered and very difficult to read.

Margin Presets

Margins don’t just dictate where each line begins and ends. In additon to these horizontal margins, there are vertical margins which dictate the position of the first and last lines in a document.

Word includes a few built-in presets for its margins. By default, Word sets the margins to the Normal preset. This preset sets both the vertical and horizontal margins to 1 inch or 2.5cm.

Note that horizontal margins refer to left and right or inside and outside and that vertical margins refer to top and bottom. These margins don’t have to be equal. You can separate measures for all 4 margins.

If you’re looking for slightly wider lines of text, the left and right margins in the Moderate preset are 75% the width of the Normal preset.

The Narrow preset sets all the margins to 50% the size of the Normal preset.

The Wide preset keeps the same vertical margins as Normal but increases the horizontal margins to 200% the width.

Custom margins

We can also create a custom margin by selecting Custom Margins from the Margins dropdown.

Here we can set our own values for the top, bottom, left and right margins.

We can also choose to insert a gutter. This is useful when you intend to print and bind your document. When binding a document you must insert a coil or spine. This can take up space in one of your margins. If you want to ensure that the spine doesn’t use up too much space in the margin, you can set aside some space to one side of the page called a gutter.

For documents with one-sided pages, you can place the gutter on the left of the top. Note that this will be different for some languages such as Arabic or Japanese, which bind books and documents on the right.

Mirrored margins

Mirrored margins are useful when printing and binding documents with two-sided pages. Note that for Mirrored margins, the horizontal margins no longer say left and right. Rather, they say inside and outside.

Left and right doesn’t work for bound documents with two-sided pages. This because for odd pages the spine will be on one side of the page and for even pages, the spine will be on the opposite of the page. If you set the gutter to left, the spine will only be placed in the gutter for odd pages.

This is where inside and outside comes in. Inside always refers to the side with the spine, outside always refers to the opposite side.

With mirrored margins set, the gutter always appears on the inside. This ensures that the spine is on the correct side for both odd and even pages.


In previous lessons, we looked at the various page views and zoom settings in Word.

In this lesson, we'll identity how margin settings affect the layout of a document. Margins dictate where the text in each line starts and ends. We can see our margins by looking at the ruler.

The gray portion of the ruler signifies the margin.

You may have noticed that the margin in this document is much narrower than usual.

This is because the author of the document manually set narrow margins.

Some people do this to fit more text into the document.

Thin margins looked cramped and too much text on one page will affect readability.

We'll need to set a wider margin for this document. To access margin settings, we'll navigate to the Layout tab in the ribbon.

Note that Layout settings are different from the View settings we covered in the previous two lessons.

Layout settings affect the physical layout of the document, not just your personal view of the document. We'll click the Margin dropdown command to look at the Margin Presets.

This document is set to Narrow, so let's start by investigating the other extreme, Wide.

As expected, these margins are far too wide.

We want to avoid any extremes, so we'll select Normal first.

This looks acceptable but let's look at Moderate.

The margins are now a little narrower than the Normal setting. This is a good compromise between normal and narrow margins. We can also create our own custom margins. To do this, we'll select Custom Margins to open the Page Setup menu.

At the top of this menu, we can select customer measurements for each part of the margin. We can edit the top, bottom, left and right margins and they do not need to be equal.

We can also insert a gutter. This adds a little more space to one of the margins.

This is useful when you plan on printing and binding a document.

For coil binders, it provides space for a coil without using space reserved for a margin.

For books with a spine, it can be difficult to read text that's too close to the spine. The gutter adds extra space to prevent this from happening.

Gutter implementation depends on the selection made in the Multiple Pages dropdown below.

At present, the Multiple Pages dropdown is set to Normal.

This assumes that you won't print on both sides of the paper.

With this setting, we can choose to place a gutter in the left or top of the document.

This will give you a little extra space to the left or above the margin to allow you to bind the document.

We'll add a gutter of one centimeter to the left side of the document.

In the preview below, notice a checkered pattern representing the gutter.

The author of this document wants to bind a printed version using a coil binder.

They also want to print on both sides of each sheet to save paper.

To do this, we'll have to choose mirrored margins.

We can now see that the gutter appears on one side for odd pages and the opposite side for even pages.

This ensures that when you print a page, both gutters are directly on top of each other.

We'll press OK to accept the changes.

With our margins and gutter complete, we'll stop the lesson here.

In the next lesson, we'll show you how to change the orientation of a page from portrait to landscape.


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