Changing Word’s Normal Template

Changing Word’s Normal Template

to simplify your life

This week, my daughter called me from her university, frustrated with MS Word. She was sick of adjusting every document’s formatting to match her professor’s requirements and wondered if there was a way for Word to automatically do that for her.

Yes. Yes, there is.

That got me thinking. Do authors know they wield such power? Well, you do! And it’s quite easy.

You just need to make a few changes and save them as your default. I’ll be showing you on Word for Mac since that’s what I have. If you have a Windows computer or want to know how to do this on Office 365, here are the instructions. They go into details on how to change other things as well.

But let’s keep this simple.

First, open a new Word document. If you’ve not made any changes to your Normal Template so far, your font is likely Calibri 11pt. Your line spacing 1.15 with no cushion above or below, no first-line indent, and your page margins will be set at 1″ all the way around.

For this example, I’m using the preferred formatting of editors and publishing houses: Times New Roman 12pt, double spaced, and the first line indented. Have a look at the video to see it in action.

With your document open, go to Format > Font, and then a new window will open. Make your preferred changes here: Times New Roman, 12pt, automatic font color. Then instead of hitting Okay, hit Default. Another box will pop up. Here you want to choose All Documents Based on the Normal Template. This makes the changes global rather than specific to this document.

For changing the line spacing and indents, go to Format > Paragraph. Select the drop-down menu Special > First Line. Typical for manuscript submissions is a 0.5″ indent. In the video above, I changed mine to 0.3″ to show you how. Then a little further down is Line Spacing. Choose Double. Again, select the button for All Documents Based on the Normal Template before clicking Okay.

And if you want to go beyond that and play with margins, headers, and footers, hit Format > Document to make changes. I’ve always been happy with 1″ margins, so I’ve never adjusted that globally, and that’s publishers’ preferences as well.

There are deeper fixes as mentioned in the Microsoft link above, but I found this easiest. Now when I start a new document, I don’t have to spend time changing everything. For those documents I don’t want this formatting used, I make the changes. Those documents aren’t 80,000 words long like my manuscripts are, so it’s easy to change the formatting for a letter or a blog post. And if you’d like, you can use templates as well. But that’s a topic for another day.

I hope this helps. I know it made a difference in my writing life, and my daughter is much happier now that she can open a new doc and just get her thoughts down without getting frustrated with setting everything up each time.

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