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Understanding Paragraph Alignment

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: Understanding Paragraph Alignment.

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 or 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." This alignment affects all lines in the paragraph except for the last one, which is left-aligned.

You can change the alignment of any paragraph by using the appropriate tools on the Formatting toolbar or by displaying the Paragraph dialog box.

There is, in addition, an undocumented paragraph alignment supported in Word: distributed-text justification. This is intended for single-line paragraphs, particularly those that use large font sizes. (For instance, you might be creating labels, signs, or placards.) This type of alignment is the same as justified alignment, except that it affects all the lines in the paragraph. The only way to apply this alignment is through the use of a shortcut key: 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 (1478) 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: Understanding Paragraph Alignment.

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Comments for this tip:

bala    16 May 2015, 02:16
i converted a pdf file into word in online...so am nt able to add any information in word now...if i do ..then full alignment changing...how should i manage now ? pls help me.
ron    13 May 2015, 08:39
Sorry, my first reply was for Word 2007 or later. In Word 2003, with the cursor in the paragraph go into Format menu > Paragraph command > Indents & Spacing tab > select "Alignment: Justified" from the drop down box.
ron    13 May 2015, 08:36
What is the problem?

You have 2 options, to create justified text.

You can use the "Justify" button on the Home tab > Paragraph group (with shortcut <CTL><J>)

or you can use the distributed justification only by using the shortcut <CTL><SHF><J>.

However, the default Word justification sucks! If you want "real" justification in 2003 you have to into Tools > OPtions > Compatibilty tab > turn on the "Do Full Justification like WP 6.x for Windows".
gauri    27 Apr 2015, 13:38
How do I justify text on microsoft word? This article has not helped me at all. Please, I really need to justify text to make my work presentable.
rhythm sharma    20 Mar 2015, 11:50
Not so helpful.

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