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Unable to Set Margins in a Document

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: Unable to Set Margins in a Document.

Susie wrote about a problem she was having with setting margins in some documents. In her office, everyone shares documents. In such an environment, it is not unusual to reuse someone else's document, or use an existing document as the basis for a new document. Susie reports that sometimes she tries to change the margins on a document, but that she cannot—the preview area in the Page Setup dialog box doesn't display correctly, and any changes to the controls are ineffectual.

The fact that this is only happening with some documents is an indicator that the problem doesn't lie with Word, but with the documents exhibiting this behavior. More than likely, the document has, in some way, become corrupted. Here is one way to try to "reclaim" your document:

  1. Open the problem document.
  2. Create a brand new, blank document.
  3. In the new document, set the margins the way you want them to appear.
  4. In the problem document, press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  5. 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.)
  6. Press Ctrl+C. The document is copied to the Clipboard.
  7. Switch to the new document.
  8. Press Ctrl+V. The text from the old document is pasted in the new document.
  9. Close all the documents.

At this point you should do your work with the new document. You will need to enter headers and footers again, but the document should now work as you expect it to. Once you are satisfied, you can delete the problem document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3423) 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: Unable to Set Margins in a Document.

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Comments for this tip:

Jeff    06 Sep 2016, 16:01
I did exactly what you stated and it did not work at all.

the margin in my document is about 3 inches and I cannot do anything to get it reduced.
Steve Dunham 15 Jun 2015 is RIGHT!    05 Jul 2016, 12:07
In fact, this problem occurs when the file is corrupt most likely from compatibility problems between different versions of word.

The column button is a much easier fix than the solution above.
Lee Holden    16 May 2016, 23:38
None of the instructions here are of any effect.

The person who wrote in commenting about the columns issue is absolutely correct.

I had bullet points arranged into 3 columns but this left a space I couldn't write in at the bottom of that page (this wasn't the case in subsequent pages). Eben that persons 'workaround' hasn't worked for me.

This is a massive glitch and the only way forward is to copy and paste onto notepad and then back to a separate word document again!

I shouldn't have to do this but Microsoft are really to blame for not foreseeing glitches like this!
Steve Dunham    15 Jun 2015, 09:28
Another possibility is that the document is erroneously set to have more than one column. There was a defective template circulating where I worked and nobody could adjust the margins until somebody discovered that some or all of it was unintentionally set to have more than one column. Selecting the whole document and choosing One from the columns menu fixed that, then the margins could be adjusted.
 
 

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