Formatting font, line spacing and alignment

Smiling woman with laptop
Duration: 3 minutes

Find out what a good layout should look like and how to use font types, line spacing, and alignment.

What’s most important?
  • The layout of your text should help present your scientific findings.
  • Less is more! Create a clean layout including a few fonts and special effects.
  • Use a font which can be easily read on a screen as well as in print.

What font type and size should you choose your paper?

The most important thing is that your text is readable. This is why it’s best to choose a plain font type which gives your text a professional look. Frequently used fonts are Arial, Calibri and Times New Roman.

If you hand in your paper as printed copy, you should consider using Times New Roman. This font type is especially suitable for printed texts. If you only have to submit the digital version, Arial or Calibri might be a better choice.

Find the font settings in the “Font” section of the menu:

Font settings, MS Word

For these three font types, a commonly used size is 11pt or 12pt. Many university departments have their own guidelines regarding font size. Please make sure that you don’t miss any of these requirements.

The font color should always be black (Automatic). You can highlight important findings or arguments making them bold, italic or underlined. Nevertheless, only small parts of your text should be highlighted in order to facilitate the reading flow. Furthermore, it’s advisable to stick to one type of highlighting for the same type of information. For example, if you use italics for book titles, you shouldn’t also mark other important keywords in your text with italics. Bold or underline such keywords instead.

What line spacing works best for your paper?

You can change the line spacing in the “Paragraph” section of the menu. Just click on the small arrow in the bottom right corner. Most universities also have their own guidelines for line spacing. If you don’t know your department’s requirements, spacing between 1.25 and 1.5 is advisable.

Paragraph menu, MS Word

Here, you can also define default spacing between paragraphs. Spacing gives your text a useful structure if applied uniformly.

Paragraph menu, MS Word

What is the best alignment for your paper?

Each paragraph of your text can be aligned separately. A paragraph always ends with a line break (Enter). You can choose between the following options:

  • Justify text (CTRL+J)
    Normal text paragraphs should always be justified to give your text a neat look.
  • Left-align (CTRL+L)
    This alignment might be useful for lists and your bibliography.
  • Right-align (CTRL+R)
    Texts in English or other Indo-European languages are hardly ever right aligned. But this can be useful while creating a title page for your paper.
  • Center text (CRTL+E)
    This option, too, can be used for title pages or headings in your text.

You can switch from one alignment to another by placing your cursor within a paragraph and then choosing the desired option from the menu:

Alignments, MS Word

Alternatively, you can use the shortcuts.

⚠ Don’ts
  • Don’t use fancy font types. A clean and professional look is always best for academic texts!
  • Don’t change the layout after each paragraph. Your text should have a clear and uniform structure.
  • Don’t forget to justify normal paragraphs.

Test yourself: Do you know the basics for formatting in Microsoft Word?

What kind of font type should you choose?

  1. A fancy playful font
  2. A clean font which can be easily read
  3. It doesn’t matter as long as you like it

  B – A clean font which can be easily read.

Which font color works best for academic texts?

  1. Black
  2. Red
  3. Each paragraph should have a different color

  A – Black. Keep it simple and clean.

What line spacing should you choose?

  1. 42
  2. Between 5.69 and 8.88
  3. Between 1.25 and 1.5

  C – Between 1.25 and 1.5. This ensures that your text is easy to read.

How do you change the alignment of a paragraph?

  1. Staring directly at it without fear
  2. Select the alignment from the “Paragraph” section on the menu or use shortcuts
  3. Frantically click everywhere

  B – Select the alignment from the “Paragraph” section on the menu or use shortcuts.

What is most important when formatting an academic text?

  1. The layout should express your personality
  2. Use as many styles as possible
  3. A clean and professional look which focuses presenting your scientific findings

  C – A clean and professional look which focuses presenting your scientific findings.

Did you enjoy?
So check out these modules:

  • Woman with laptop in café
    Module 2
    Duration: 4 minutes

    Formatting page numbers and footnotes

    Find out how to insert automatic page numbers, footnotes, and a bibliography and learn how to start your paper’s introduction on page 1.