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: Margins Incorrect when Printing.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 10, 2022)
Pamela edits doctoral dissertations for grad students and discovered that the margins on her Word printouts are inaccurate. Although the page setup reflects the appropriate margins, when printed the margins are greater. They also appear irregular and greater in the print view. She has contacted Microsoft directly, but they will not assist her because the software was preloaded by Dell at time of purchase. She contacted Dell, and although they attempted to assist her, they were unsuccessful in resolving this issue.
There are many possible causes for the problem, as described. Unfortunately, tracking down the problem means that you are going to have to engage in some "trial and error" to figure out what is going on.
First, you need to figure out if the problem occurs on all documents or not. If it doesn't, then you know that it has to be a document-specific setting. For instance, check the Margins tab of the Page Setup dialog box to see if there is a gutter margin set. If there is, set it to 0 and see if the problem goes away.
Check the other margin settings, as well. For instance, do the margins apply to the whole document, or are there different sections in the document that have different margins specified? Try selecting the whole document with Ctrl+A, viewing the Page Setup dialog box, and applying the desired margins to the Whole Document.
Next, check to see if you have changes tracked in the document. If Track Changes is turned on, Word may be set to print "Final Showing Markup," which can cause some funky margins in the printout. If you suspect this is the case, choose to a different printing mode (in the Print dialog box) or resolve all the outstanding changes before printing.
Another thing to check is the settings on the Print tab of the Options dialog box. For instance, if Allow A4/Letter Resizing is enabled, the output can appear different than what you see on-screen. Similarly, if you have Word configured to print hidden text (but not display it) or to print field codes, this could affect the way that information is printed.
You may also want to check to see if some strange font substitution is going on in your printout. If either Word or your printer is substituting fonts on you, then you can get some strange looking results, often in subtle ways.
You should note that the above settings don't actually affect the margins, but may affect what is printed and give the appearance that the margins are changing in the printout. If you are sure that it is the margins that are changing and not the text itself that is changing, then this indicates that the problem may be related to a printer driver. You'll want to figure out the exact make and model of the printer you are using, along with your version of Windows, and then visit the Web site for the printer manufacturer. Download and install the latest printer driver, and the problem may go away.
You need to make sure that you get the printer driver for your exact model of printer—anything for a "related" printer might give the erroneous results. In addition, you'll want to make sure that you have—in Windows—the proper printer driver selected for your output.
WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (496) 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: Margins Incorrect when Printing.
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