Formatting a text document

Typesetting is the physical composition of text, i.e., mainly its aesthetic appearance. On this page, I share what I believe to be the most important elements in typesetting. Also, I share and explain a Word template that I use personally, and that I advice my students to use when they write essays for my courses. The template is available for download here (Word 2016).

The basics

The aesthetic appearance of a text makes a difference to how it is judged. Neat texts are judged more favorably than not-so-neat texts. Therefore, writers should be concerned with how their texts are set. In short, I follow these guidelines for typesetting.

Layout

The content should be concentrated to the center of the page. I prefer wide margins, for several reasons. First, the reader should be able to comfortably hold the print in his or her hands. Second, many readers write notes and comments in the margins. Third, and most importantly, it looks good and makes reading easy.

Body text

The body text should have a justified right margin, so that both the left and right side of the text mass are in straight lines. There should not be any space between paragraphs. Instead, new paragraphs should be distinguished by indentation. For comfort, there should be about twelve words per row before line break, and the document should be automatically hyphenated.

Fonts

I use Times New Roman 10 pt for body text and Franklin Gothic Book 10/11/12 pt for titles and headings. Times New Roman is a so-called serif font, which makes it easy to read in print. I use 10 pt because it looks good, provided that the document’s margins are wide enough. Franklin Gothic Book is a so-called sans-serif, which is why it is suitable for use for titles and headings.

Block quotes and lists

Citations comprised of 40 words or more should be set off from the main text as block quotes. In block quotes, citation marks are superfluous as the quotation is already highlighted through formatting. Lists should also be set off from the main text. The same indentation should be used for second and third list levels.

Footnotes and page numbers

Footnote text and page numbers should be smaller than the body text. I use Times New Roman 8 pt. This also means that there should be less spacing between lines. In Word, I prefer to remove the horizontal bar separating footnotes from the main text.

List of references

The list of references should appear after the main text, either on a separate page or following the final paragraph. It should be alphabetically ordered and marked by hanging indentation.

The Word template

These are the settings I use in the Word template. For illustration, see this document (PDF), which has been set using the template. In my opinion, it looks almost as good as if it had been set using LaTeX or some other professional typesetting software.

Document layout

Paper size: A4
Top margin: 3,5 cm
Bottom margin: 5,5 cm
Left and right margins: 4 cm
Header distance: 1,25 cm
Footer distance: 4 cm
Automatic hyphenation

Body text

Times New Roman, 10 pt, normal
Justified right margin
0,5 cm indentation
1,2 line spacing

Title

Franklin Gothic Book, 12 pt, bold
1,5 line spacing
22 pt space before
4 pt space after

Heading 1

Franklin Gothic Book, 11 pt, bold
Single line spacing
22 pt space before
4 pt space after

Heading 2

Franklin Gothic Book, 10 pt, normal
1,3 line spacing
8 pt space before
0 pt space after

Block quote

Times New Roman, 10 pt, normal
Justified right margin
0,5 cm left and right indentation
1,2 line spacing
8 pt space before
8 pt space after

Lists

Times New Roman, 10 pt, normal
Justified right margin
0,5 cm left and right indentation
0,5 cm hanging indentation
1,2 line spacing
8 pt space before
8 pt space after

Footnote text

Times New Roman, 8 pt, normal
Justified right margin
No indentation
1,1 line spacing
No space before or after

Page numbers

Times New Roman, 8 pt, normal
Centered

List of references

Times New Roman, 10 pt, normal
Justified right margin
0,5 cm hanging indentation
1,2 line spacing