Changing the Margins in Word

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The standard margins for a Word document are 1 inch at the top and bottom of the page and 1 ¼ inch from the left and right hand sides of the page; each new document you open in Word will have these margins. You can, of course, change the margins to suit your needs. Often times it makes more sense to squeeze an extra line or two onto a page rather than use a second sheet of paper, and if you're working on your resume, you'll certainly want to make changes to the margins!

The following steps will help you change the margins in Word 2003. For help with Word 2007, read my tutorial on changing document margins in Word 2007.

If you've done some exploring in Word and want to alter the margins, you've probably tried to do so by moving the sliders on the ruler bar, and if you're reading this, you've probably run into problems with that method. It is possible to change the margins using the ruler bar. You simply hold your mouse over the triangular sliders until the cursor turns into a double headed arrow; when you click, a yellow dotted line will appear in your document where the margin is.

You can then drag the margin to the right or the left, depending upon where you would like to move the margin. The problem with using the ruler bar sliders is that it is easy to change the indents and hanging indents when you intend to change the margins, as the controls are so closely placed.

Further, if you change the indents instead of your margins, you're bound to make a mess of your document.

Fortunately, there is another way to change the margins. First, select Page Setup…from the File menu.

When the Page Setup dialog box appears, click on the Margins tab.

Word presents you with numerous options.

In the TopBottomLeft, and Right selection boxes under the Margins section, highlight the entry you would like to change and enter a new number (you do not need to include the ") for the distance in inches you want the text to be from the respective edges of the document page. You can also use the arrows to increase or decrease the margins in increments predefined by Word.

The Page Setup box also give you the option of changing the gutter, or space between columns and the gutter position. Making adjustments to the gutter will be addressed later in a tutorial on using columns.

Finally, you have a few important options about how to apply the changes to the margins. Under the Apply to heading in the  section of the dialog box, you will notice a drop-down box that says Whole document. If you click on the arrow, you will have the option to apply the changes only from the point of the current cursor location forward.

Additionally, if you want to change only a portion of your document margins, simply highlight the portion you want to change; when you reopen the dialog box and click on the Apply to drop-down, This point forward will change to Selected text.

Once you have made your choices, click OK to apply them to the document.

The box will close automatically.

When setting your margins, please note that most printers require about a half inch margin all the way around the page to print correctly; if you specify margins outside the printable area of the page, you will receive a warning message when you attempt to print the document.