Aligning text with pleading line numbers (Word, all recent versions)

August 8, 2009 at 3:44 pm 1 comment

One of the most common questions I get from training clients and other contacts in the legal profession has to do with getting text to align with the line numbers in pleading paper. The problem occurs mainly when the pleading template has been generated by Word’s “Pleading Wizard” (available in versions of the program prior to, but not included with, Word 2007). Because of the way the Wizard stretches the line numbers so that they are equidistant and fit within the space allocated for text — assuming a 1″ top margin, a 1″ bottom margin, and a 12-point font — the numbers end up using line spacing that is a fraction of true double-spacing.

Because of an aspect of typography called “leading” (rhymes with “sledding”), single spacing is roughly 110% to 135% of the size of your chosen font and double spacing is roughly 220% to 270% of the size of your chosen font.[1] Thus, if your body font is Times New Roman set at 12 points, double-spaced lines actually are spaced about 27.6 to 28.8 points apart. But the Pleading Wizard compresses the area where the line numbers appear, resulting in line spacing that is significantly smaller, such as 22.75 points. (You can figure out the line spacing for the line numbers by opening the header editing screen in Word — one quick method is to double-click in the white space at the top of any page, or alternatively to right-click at the top of any page, then choose “Edit Header” — then right-clicking somewhere within the line numbers and choosing “Paragraph,” which will open the Paragraph dialog. Under Spacing, Line Spacing, you’ll see the figure you need to use for your “pleading double” spacing. Usually it is set at “Exactly” a certain number of points.)

As you might imagine, when the line numbers are spaced less than 24 points apart and you are using standard double spacing (meaning that the distance between lines is upwards of 27 points), it won’t be long before the text gets out of alignment with the line numbers.

This inconsistency in line spacing between the line numbers and the text is the most frequent cause of the problem, but there are other factors that can contribute to it. I discuss each of those factors, and offer workarounds, in some depth in my book. For now, I’ll go over only three of the “usual suspects.”

Fixing the Line Spacing in the Document

If you’ve checked the line spacing for the pleading line numbers and it has turned out to be anything other than Double or Exactly 24, you’ll need to adjust the line spacing in the document to match. That will involve selecting paragraphs that should be double-spaced, opening the Paragraph dialog, and changing the line spacing to “Exactly” and the number of points you noted for the line numbers. Remember that you’ll need to select paragraphs that should be single-spaced and use the same technique to apply “Exactly” spacing that is half the number of points for the line numbers. In other words, if the line numbers are spaced Exactly 22.75 points apart, you’ll need to make double-spaced paragraphs 22.75 points and single-spaced paragraphs 11.375 points. (Word often changes the 11.375 to 11.4. That’s fine.)

You might find that it takes some tweaking to get paragraphs between single- and double-spaced text to behave properly. If you just can’t get it to work and it’s driving you crazy, consider going into the paragraph that won’t quite align with the line number, launching the Paragraph dialog, and adding 3 points or 4 points of “Spacing Before.” Just remember if you do so that the additional “Before” space will get copied to the following paragraph if you start that next paragraph by pressing the Enter key (because paragraph formatting is contained in the paragraph symbol and gets copied to the following paragraph when you press Enter).

Page Setup — Page Margins and Header/Footer Distance From Edge

Sometimes you can fix text alignment problems in pleadings by fiddling with the top and/or bottom page margin and/or the distance of the header and/or footer from the edge of the virtual paper.

When you launch the Page Setup dialog (File, Page Setup in older versions of Word; Page Layout tab, Page Setup group, click the dialog launcher in the lower right-hand corner of the group in Word 2007), you might notice that the margins for the pleading are negative numbers. This seemingly odd phenomenon is actually by design in Word. I’ve never quite understood the reasoning behind it, but if you’re interested you can read more about it in MS Knowledge Base Article 211611.

Be careful to note the original margins in case your changes don’t work and you have to restore them. The same goes for the distance of the header and footer from the edge, which you can check by clicking the Layout tab of the Page Setup dialog.

Compatibility Options

Other little-known settings that can affect text alignment in pleadings are located under “Compatibility Options.” In older versions of Word, you can find these settings by clicking the Tools menu, Options, Compatibility tab; in Word 2007, click the Office Button, Word Options, Advanced, and scroll all the way down to — and click the plus sign to the left of — Layout Options. Look in particular for “Don’t add extra space for raised / lowered characters,” “Don’t add leading (extra space) between rows of text,” and “Don’t center ‘exact line height’ lines.” (I’d suggest trying one at a time, since otherwise you won’t necessarily know which of the three options worked.) I’ve had particular success fixing alignment issues by enabling the last option (“Don’t center ‘exact line height’ lines”). Your mileage may vary, as they say.

There are some additional features that can affect text alignment, and I might discuss some of those items in a later post. But the troubleshooting tools I’ve provided here should be of considerable help. Do keep in mind that it’s usually best to try the least drastic remedy first, and also remember that more than one setting could be causing the problem. Troubleshooting by reviewing the settings in the Paragraph and Page Setup dialogs might turn up a relatively easy fix.

Good luck!

[1] For more information about line spacing in Word, and the effects of “leading,” see this post.

Note: This article has been revised as of 8/1/2010 and 11/16/2015.

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