How to make and use columns in a Word document

Word 365
Typically, Word documents like books, reports, and letters have paragraphs that occupy the whole page width. In articles, newsletters, flyers, and brochures, all or only parts of the text may be arranged in two or more columns:
Columns in Word 365

You don't need to create tables to structure text into columns. Tables are useful for displaying translated versions of the legal document side-by-side, but table cells break the text flow and are not recommended for multi-column layouts. It is more convenient to use columns for text formatting in most other cases. Word also allows you to adjust your columns by adding column breaks.

Format text in columns

To format a text into columns, do the following:

   1.   Do one of the following:

  • To use the same number of columns for an entire document, click anywhere in the document (empty or with content).

    If you choose to format text in columns, Word fills the first column with text on the page and then moves to the beginning of the next column. When all columns on one page are filled, the text moves to the next page.

  • To format only a part of the document, select the paragraphs that you want to wrap in columns.

    If you select a part of the text and wrap it in columns, Word inserts section breaks at the beginning and end of the selected text to delineate the area where the column layout is applied:

    Columns in section Word 365

    See more about breaks and how to display them.

To manually specify where the text in each column should end, you can use a column break.

   2.   On the Layout tab, in the Page Setup group, click the Columns button:

Columns button in Word 365

   3.   In the Columns dropdown list, select one of the options:

More Columns in Word 365
  • One (used by default),
  • Two, Three to create two or three columns of equal width,
  • Left, Right to create two columns of unequal width,
  • More Columns... to specify more options in the Columns dialog box:
    Columns dialog box in Word 365
    • In the Presets section, you can choose the same options as in the Columns dropdown list – One, Two, Three, Left, or Right.
    • If you need more columns, type or select the number of columns you need in the Number of columns field. The maximum number of columns may vary depending on the font, font size, margins, etc. E.g., 13.
    • The Line between checkbox inserts a vertical line between columns. This line clearly defines column borders, especially if you want to fit as much content on the page as possible (very handy for cheat sheets). See more options below.

Format columns

   I.   It is recommended to justify the paragraphs in columns to give the page a clean and organized appearance. To justify the column text, select it and do one of the following:

  • On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, click the Justify button:
    Justify button in Word 365
  • Press Ctrl+J.

   II.   To change the width of columns or the space between them, do the following:

   1.   Click anywhere in the columnar text.

   2.   Do one of the following:

  • On the Layout tab, in the Page Layout group, click the Columns button, then choose More Columns...

    In the Columns dialog box, in the Width and spacing section:

    Width and spacing in Columns dialog box Word 365

    In the Width box for any columns, enter or select a new width.

    The Width measurements for the other columns change to match, and the width of all the columns changes.

    See how the columns will be displayed in the Preview section.

  • On the horizontal ruler, drag the margins to change the width of the columns:
    Horizontal ruler for columns in Word 365

   III.   To reduce white space on text lines, you can set up Word to hyphenate the text and break long words into syllables. See how to hyphenate automatically and manually for more details.

Remove columns

To remove column layout for the selected text or entire document, do the following:

   1.   Click anywhere in the columnar text.

   2.   On the Layout tab, in the Page Layout group, click the Columns button, then choose One.

Insert a column break

In the Word document, you can manually break columns. When you break a column, the text after the break moves to the top of the next column:

Column break in Word 365

You can display column breaks as regular nonprintable symbols. Word displays them as Column break in Word 365.

To insert a column break, position the cursor at the beginning of the line you want to start in the new column, and then do any of the following:

  • On the Layout tab, in the Page Setup group, click the Breaks button, and then click Column to insert a column break:
    Column in Page Breaks Word 365
  • Press Ctrl+Shift+Enter.

The column break is inserted, and the cursor moves to the beginning of the next column.

Remove a column break

To remove a column break, click at the left end of the break or select the break and press the Delete key.

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