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Handling Long Lines in Address Labels

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: Handling Long Lines in Address Labels.

Word allows you to easily create address labels from data stored in an external source, such as an Access database or an Excel workbook. Word essentially takes the information from those sources and "pours" it into the format you designate within Word. As the information is placed into the Word format, it is possible for one or more lines to be too long to fit within the allotted space in the label.

When an address line wraps to more than a single printed line, Word treats it like any other paragraph and left-aligns each line within the paragraph. What if you want the wrapped lines to not be left-aligned, but to have some other alignment? This is not as easy to do in Word, but can be handled in a number of different ways.

The first way you can handle the wrapped lines is manually. Obviously, if you create a new document when you merge your labels, you can look through the addresses, find those lines that are too long, press Enter where you want the line to break, and adjust the alignment on the second (run-over) address line. This, of course, is rather tedious. This approach does have its advantages, however. The primary advantage is that the run-over address lines can be formatted in any manner desired, i.e., indented, centered, flush right, etc.

If you are looking for a more automatic approach, the only thing you can do is to adjust the formatting of the paragraphs used for the lines in a label. If you anticipate quite a few long address lines, this is definitely the way to go. The normal approach is create your mail-merge document (for labels, of course), and then to adjust all the paragraphs in the labels so they use hanging indents. (This means that the first line will be left-justified, and additional lines will be indented to whatever degree you desire.) This approach doesn't give the benefit of being able to right-justify or center run-over lines, but the trade-off is that you don't need to manually adjust any lines. Follow these steps if you are using Word 97 or Word 2000:

  1. Choose Mail Merge from the Tools menu. Word displays the Mail Merge Helper, showing three steps.
  2. Using the first step in the Mail Merge Helper, indicate that you want to create mailing labels, and that you want to create them in a new document.
  3. Using the second step in the Mail Merge Helper, specify a data source for your merge.
  4. Using the fields available to you, design how you want your mailing labels to look.
  5. Close the Mail Merge Helper.

If you are using Word 2002 or Word 2003, the steps are a bit different:

  1. Choose Letters and Mailings from the Tools menu, then choose Mail Merge. Word displays the Mail Merge task pane at the right of the program window.
  2. Using the steps in the task pane, indicate that you want to create labels and you want then in a new document.
  3. When prompted, specify a data source for your merge.
  4. Using the fields available to you, design how you want your mailing labels to look.
  5. Close the Mail Merge task pane.

At this point you have a sheet of labels on your screen, and you are ready to format them to handle long lines properly. Regardless of the version of Word you are using, follow these steps:

  1. Select the entire document by pressing Ctrl+A.
  2. Hold down the Shift key as you press the Left Arrow. This "unselects" the final paragraph marker in the document. (You should have everything in the document selected except the final paragraph marker.)
  3. Choose Paragraph from the Format menu. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Paragraph dialog box.

  5. Using the Special drop-down list, choose Hanging.
  6. Using the By field, specify how far you want the run-over lines indented. (The default is one-half inch.)
  7. Click on OK.

Your labels are now set, and you can do your mail merge as you normally would. The result is run-over lines that are indented from the left margin, which makes them stand out a bit.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1612) 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: Handling Long Lines in Address Labels.

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Comments for this tip:

Jack Cole    06 Jun 2016, 05:23
thanks for this chap
Brad    21 Feb 2016, 11:45
Using Word 2013 and following your instruction each line is indented backwards the spacing I provide in the 'by' field. Any suggestions?
Randy    11 Aug 2015, 17:32
This doesn't work if the merge fields are embedded in an 'if-then-else' statement. In that case, the hanging indent is ignored, causing great consternation on the part of the indenter!
 
 

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