From the Kenosha News on 8-20-06

Get the right spacing in your Word documents

Recently, a reader asked me for a solution to this problem: “When I try to ‘move the sentence forward’ with the curser in front of the first word, sometimes the sentence will move forward with the spacebar and sometimes it will not budge.” This is a very common problem that has happened to most people. The solution isn’t magic as much as it is understanding how word processing software works and the features that can help or frustrate you.

The simple explanation of the reader’s situation is that there is no carriage return at the end of the previous line, so the spaces at the beginning of the current line are being ignored as superfluous – just too many spaces between words. (A carriage return is the character that is added when you press the Enter key in a document. It causes the cursor and subsequent typing to move to the beginning of the next line.) To check if this is the case, click the ¶ (Show/Hide symbols) at the far right end of the standard toolbar in Word. This will display all of the hidden formatting codes in your documents, including spaces, tabs, and carriage returns. Spaces display as periods, tabs as arrows, and carriage returns as ¶ symbols.

If there is no ¶ symbol at the end of the previous line, put the cursor at the end of the line and press Enter. Then move the cursor to the beginning of the next line and move your text over. Note however, that moving your text over with the space bar is not a very good habit. If you just want to indent that line, press the Tab key instead. By default, there are tabs set every half inch across the page. If you want to indent the whole paragraph, using spaces to do so will be frustrating. Instead, use the “Increase Indent” button on the formatting toolbar. This will move the whole paragraph over and “re-wrap” all of the words regardless of how you edit it.

If you want to create “hanging indents” – where the paragraph begins with a number, letter, or bullet and then is indented from there down – use the Numbering or Bullets button on the formatting toolbar to do this automatically. If you don’t like how the numbers appear, put your cursor in the numbered/bulleted paragraph (or highlight multiple paragraphs) and then click on the Format menu and click on Bullets and Numbering. Click the appropriate tab and select the format for the numbering or bullets you prefer. Note the “Restart Numbering” option at the bottom of the Numbered screen. This is what you need if you’re starting a new numbered list but Word keeps using numbers from a previous list.

Keep in mind that Word has ways to do many formatting tasks automatically. When you try to create “space” manually using the space bar or try to get to a new page by pressing Enter a bunch of times, you fight against the software instead of using its features. Getting to know the features of Word by experimenting with them in a low-pressure situation will help you to use the features to your advantage.

By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 8-20-06