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Squeezing Everything In

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Squeezing Everything In.

You've finished your masterpiece, and you are ready to "go to press" (even if the press is a small printer in the corner of your work area). You take a look at the document, and notice that it is a certain number of pages long. You go to the last page, and find that there are only two lines or so on the final page. If you could just get rid of those lines...

This is a common problem for many writers. It doesn't matter if you are writing letters or novellas—the problem of fitting text to a specific print area can be frustrating. What can you do? Well, there is a simple approach and a better approach. Let's look at each of them.

First of all, for the simple approach: If you display your document in Print Preview, you notice that there is a button on the toolbar that will condense your document by a page. Actually, it doesn't really do that. Instead, it reduces the font size of all the fonts used in your document, thereby allowing more text to be fit into the area you have available. It also affects font sizes differently. For instance, a document with a 14-point, 12-point, 10-point, and 8-point text has those sizes reduced, respectively, to 12-point, 10.5-point, 8.5-point, and 7 point. This might not give the desired results.

A better approach is the old tried-and-true manual method of adjusting the parameters that affect the text on your page. The first thing you should try has to do with the content of your document itself. Don't be afraid to take another look at your content and edit it to make it shorter. Remove superfluous words and strive to be more concise in your descriptions.

Next, you can hyphenate your document. This can close up some lines, simply by pulling "partial" words up to previous lines. This works particularly well if the right side of your document is quite ragged (has a lot of white space).

Now you can look at adjusting the margins. You can often reduce margins on all four sides of your paper by .1 inch, and no one will notice. Don't forget to examine the gutter margin, if your layout uses one.

Another thing to try is reducing the paragraph line spacing. You can set spacing to a specific number of points, but a "trickier" method is to set the line spacing to Multiple, and then use a percentage in the At box. For instance, set your line spacing to .99, and the paragraph then uses 99% of its normal line spacing. You can keep reducing the line spacing by a percent at a time, and the incremental effect on your reader is barely noticeable—the effect on your document length can be dramatic, depending on the number of pages in the document.

A related trick is to reduce the space between paragraphs. Unfortunately, you can do this only in one-point increments, but the difference between 12 points and 11 points between paragraphs is minuscule and virtually undetectable.

When the above approaches have been used, it is time to reduce point size on your document's text. It is best to start out at small increments—Word can handle increments as small as one-half (.5) point. Thus, you could reduce from 12-point text to 11.5-point text. This is barely noticeable to a reader, but can have a huge impact on document length.

Finally, you can condense character spacing. Here you can be quite precise, adjusting the spacing by as little as one-tenth (.1) point. Even a small adjustment here can significantly increase the amount of material on each line in your document.

As you can tell, there are quite a few different settings you can tinker with to get your document down to size. The drawback to this is that sometimes tinkering can lead to unintended results. For instance, you may end up with a document that looks funny because you applied your "fixes" sporadically throughout the document. A more consistent approach is to use styles to define the appearance of your text. Your "tinkering" can then be done to the styles themselves, and they will be applied evenly and consistently throughout your document. (Provided, of course, you applied styles consistently to begin with.) Styles are at the heart of any professional presentation of text in Word, and have been covered extensively in other issues of WordTips.

The bottom line is to take a look at what you are trying to convey in your document, and then make the formatting changes that detract from your message the least. This means that an approach you take in one document may not be appropriate for another. You need to decide what is best for your purposes.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (605) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Squeezing Everything In.

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