A Complete Guide on How to Format a Document

Format a document

Although, for most people, computers form an everyday part of our lives, whether it’s for work or leisure time. However, internationally, around 23% of adults can not confidently use a computer. This might be because of a lack of access, confidence, desire or need to.

Although understanding all the capabilities of a computer can be daunting, one of the simplest things to get started with is writing. By following a few simple rules, you can learn to format a document easily.

It might be daunting at first if you open a word processing application, but in truth, you only need to use a few of the format options and tools that are available.

So, if you’re tired of struggling to format documents on your laptop or computer, this article is for you. Read on for a complete guide on how to format a document.

Formatting Basics

The majority of word-processing apps work similarly, so once you’ve learned how to use one, you’ll be able to transfer these skills and use alternative applications.

Like when you’re writing a letter or document by hand, some formatting rules should be followed. However, there are a few more types of formatting variations using a digital word processor, as you have control over the font style and size.

How to Format a Document 

For our example, we will use Google Docs for specific instructions. Although there are dozens of word processing apps available, this one is free and does everything you need to get started with document formatting.

When you open the app, you will see a blank page. In Google Docs, the default page size is the ‘Letter’ format. This means that the document’s width is 8.5 inches, and its length is 11 inches, the same as a piece of ‘Letter’ sized paper.

Find out more about formatting a document in Microsoft Word here.

Setting up the Page

For most users from the USA and Canada, the dimensions of ‘Letter’, are fine. However, if you’re wanting to use a different size of paper, for example, outside of the USA and Canada, A4 is the standard size for a page. Then you can change it easily in Google Docs. Here’s how to do it.

In the main menu, click File > Page Setup > then change the paper size to the one you want.

Paragraph Formatting

Paragraph formatting is the change in the way each section of writing looks in a document. These can be uniform, or different, depending on what you’re writing. For example, in a letter, each paragraph will probably be the same so you won’t need to add so much formatting to it.

In a longer document, to make it easier to read, it’s a good idea to make use of different sections. You can find the paragraph formatting options by clicking on the menu where it says Format > Paragraph Styles. This will give you various options. 

Heading Styles

Adding headings to your document makes it easier for screen readers to be able to read your document. They are sometimes referred to as H1, H2, H3, and so on, which refers to Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. 

To understand these, think of an H1 as your main heading, then the H2 are topics that come under this heading, and the H3 are subcategories. You should only have one H1, but you can have as many of the other headings as necessary. 

On-Page Formatting

Format a document

If you’re writing about data or information, then to make your document easier to read, you can use tables and columns. These are straightforward to set up. 

Inserting a Table

A table is useful for displaying figures. They are easy to set up in Google Docs. Before you start, you’ll need to know how big you want your table. Make note of how many columns and how many rows you’ll need.

To put a table in, go to Insert > Table. You will see a pop-out menu to drag and highlight the size of the table you’ll need. Drag your mouse over the menu and then click. This will insert a table into your document. 

Inserting Columns

Columns can be useful for breaking up a block of text or if you want to make a document to be printed out and folded. You’ll need to figure out how many columns you want before you insert them.

To add columns, go to the main menu. Click on Format > Columns. This will give you a pop-out menu to drag and choose an option. Click on the number of columns you want to insert.

Lists and Bullet Points

This can be useful for creating short statements or lists. To insert a bullet point list, click on Format > Bullets and numbering. Click this and select either Numbered list or the Bulleted list. 

Character Formatting

Character formatting covers everything about how the letters look. On a basic level, this can cover the style of font and the size of the letters. On a more technical level, you can change things like letter spacing and line height. 

Changing the Font

As standard, when you open Google Docs, the font is set to a style called Arial. This is an easy-to-read font and suitable for most uses. If you do want to change it, use the sub-menu. You will see the word ‘Arial’ in a drop-down box. Click on this box to choose from hundreds of other font styles.

Setting the Size 

The default setting for the letter size on Google Docs is 11. You may want to change this size, especially if you’re writing for young children or people who have problems with their sight. To do this, use the sub-menu.

You’ll see the number ‘11’ in a box with a + and – on each side of it. If you click on the number, you’ll get a drop-down menu. If you just want to go up by single increments, then click the + or – button. 

Are You Ready to Start Formatting a Document?

Hopefully, this article has given you some useful information on how to format a document. Getting your head around new technology, like with any new skill, can feel frustrating at first. 

At Noobie, we specialize in technology education. Whether you’re looking to get started with the latest gadgets or learn how to make technology work for you, we can help. Find out more in our easy-to-follow guides, today.