The Internet is fierce with polemics about one-space-or-two-after-the-period. Bah, lightweight stuff. What about all those poor people you see making MS Word docs look a little more spacious by inserting an extra empty line between paragraphs? There is a better way! But the Office UI (on Mac at least) is heinous, so here’s a step-by-step.
Behold two paragraphs of text, crushed unkindly against each other.
What you want to do is tell Word to henceforth leave a tasteful amount of space between all your paragraphs, without you having to moronically double-Enter.
You pull down the “Format” menu and select “Style”, for reasons which are obvious if you understand how Word thinks about the presentation units that it manages for you.
Which gets you this entirely opaque screen.
Once again, if you were able to mind-meld with a seasoned Office developer in Redmond, you’d understand that there’s a reason for each and every little morsel in this smorgasbord. You may not have thought that “No List” or “Theme Body” were important to your writing; silly you! Anyhow, ignore all that crap and just hit the “Modify…” button in the lower center, to tell Word that you want to fix up the rendering for the “Normal” style, softly highlighted in the left-side window.
Hm, that soft select suggests that you could hard-select “Normal” by clicking on it. But don’t, because I can’t be responsible for the consequences. Or even double-clicking; I betcha something happens. I wonder… no, let’s go back to “Modify…”; it’s your friend. And people who take a wrong turn in the Office style dialogs are in Gandalf-and-Mirkwood territory: Leave the path and the giant spiders are waiting.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Here are lots of interesting things about the “Normal” style, which is what you’re using in Word when you’re not using anything else. And this screen is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s helpfully highlighted the style’s name in case you want to change it; after all, you might not be feeling Normal that day. But for now we just want some white space. Many brave women and men have faced this screen, seen no path forward, and their courage has failed them. But I’m here to help. It turns out that what you want is the bottom-left control labeled “Format”. Mind you, everything else on this screen is all about format too; In effect it’s the We Must Go Deeper menu.
Look at that! All the Aristotelian Categories of WYSIWYG, pregnant with ellipses. Well, except for “Shortcut key…” which you have to feel a little sorry for, stranded as it is among strangers.
Since we’re trying to space out paragraphs, you might be inspired to think that the “Paragraph” entry in this pulldown would be your ticket to happiness. And you’d be right!
Really, Word is a pretty-full featured document presentation system, if you’re up to the dialog-navigation challenges.
Anyhow, it turns out that to achieve the desired effect you use the “Spacing” group, third from the top — you can see that I’ve hit the “After” setting which helpfully jumped to a suggested 6 pt of paragraph separation. And 6 pt isn’t terrible but I normally prefer a little less, 5 or 4. The effect is way more polished than just hitting Enter twice after each paragraph. OK, so hit “OK” already.
You’re pretty well done, but now you have to escape this maze of twisty little dialogs, which is not as straightforward as you might think.
A close look reveals that the dialog in front with the “Apply” button doesn’t actually have focus, the one behind it does. I’m not sure exactly how this happens, but it’s really easy to get into a mode where you mash away at the Apply button and Word just isn’t having it, sneers at your attempts to Apply your amateur typographical notions. Then you have to bring the other dialog forward and hit the “OK”. Or maybe I have that backward. And it doesn’t always happen. But with a little persistence and after saying “Make It So, Number One” to a variety of subtly-3D blue buttons, the dialogs will all be gone, leaving your prose vaulting airily over graceful open space from paragraph to paragraph.
OK, 80% of you probably knew this already, and I have learned over the years that people cheekily double-tapping the “Enter” key between paragraphs rarely appreciate being told that There Is A Better Way. Especially when I start filling their screen with dialogs.
Back to your regularly-scheduled programming.