8. Setting Alignment

 
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Overview

In this first lesson on text orientation, we guide the user through the main types of alignment: left, right, center and justified.

Lesson Notes

Lesson Goal

Learn how alignment affects spacing within lines of text.

What Is text alignment?

Alignment affects where on each line your text starts and ends. It’s affected by the position of the document margins

By default, the margins in Word docs start 2.5cm or 1 inch in from the edge of the page, but this can be adjusted.

Left align

Left aligned text starts at the left margin and finishes at or just before the right margin. This means that there can sometimes be empty space between the last character in the line and the right margin.

Right align

Right aligned text is the opposite. It starts at the right margin and finishes at or just before the left margin. This means that there can sometimes be empty space between the last character in the line and the left margin.

Right aligned text is not used very often but can be useful in letters where the returnee address and date tend to be on the right.

Center align

Center aligned text starts at the center and finishes at or before both margins. This means that there can sometimes be empty space between the text and both margins.

Center aligned text is useful for titles and headings but should be avoided for full paragraphs of text.

Justified text

Justified text is effectively left aligned text with a modification. In justified text, each line always starts at the left margin and finishes at the right margin, never before.

It does this by increasing the size of spaces between words. The one exception is the final line in a paragraph.

Transcript

Up to this point, we've focused on formatting text size, color and emphasis. In the next few lessons, we'll learn about how to format text spacing. In this lesson, we'll examine how alignment affects spacing within lines of text. Alignment affects where your text starts and ends on any specific line. It's affected by the position of the document margins. The margin determines the distance between the text and the right or left side of the document. It usually starts about 2.5 centimeters, or one inch from the edge of the page.

The most common type of alignment is left align. Left aligned text starts at the left margin and finishes at or just before the right margin. Empty space is to the right of that text. Right aligned text is the opposite. It starts at the right margin and finishes at or just before the left margin. Empty space is to the left of the text.

Right aligned text is not used very often, but it can be useful in letters where the returnee address and date tend to be right aligned. Center aligned text starts at the center and finishes at or before both margins. Empty space is on either side of the text. Center aligned text is useful for titles, but should be avoided for full paragraphs. Justified text is a little more complex. It's effectively left aligned text with a modification.

In justified text, each line always starts at the left margin and finishes at the right margin, never before. It does this by increasing the size of spaces between words.

The one exception is the final line in a paragraph. The last line leaves the empty space between the final word and the right margin. Let's return to the case study document to see how we can better implement alignment. We'll start with the our values section on page two. This section uses three different types of alignment. The author's motivation was likely diversity in styles for the sake of it. Word offers a lot of customization, but you should still stick to strict principles when writing a professional document. When we click on the first paragraph, we see that the right alignment command is selected in the ribbon. This is the most difficult form of alignment and should be avoided. We'll select this paragraph and apply left alignment with Control + L. If we select the next three paragraphs, we can see that they're center aligned.

It's much easier to read than right aligned text, but still looks unprofessional. We'll apply left alignment again.

The final paragraph is justified. Justified text is quite common in professional documents as it's essentially a form of left alignment.

However, it can create problems. As we stated earlier, justified will always stretch out a line so the text touches both margins except for the last line in the paragraph.

However, the second line in this paragraph is very stretched out. It looks like there's plenty of space for many words in the following sentence. Let's see if the formatting marks can reveal the cause of this problem.

It looks like the culprit is a soft return. This forces a new line after the word veterinarian.

Since a soft return doesn't create a new paragraph, the justified alignment treats it like any other line and stretches out the spacings to make the text touch both margins.

We'll delete this soft return and change the alignment to left.

Note that justified is still an acceptable form of alignment for a professional document, primarily because soft returns aren't that common. However, it's good practice to apply left alignment to your documents to avoid these types of issues.

We'll stop the lesson here. In the next lesson, we'll take a deeper look at using indents.