Newspaper columns are a great way to format content for brochures, flyers, newsletters, and more. They are especially useful in a document with a lot of text, because narrow columns are more readable. Fortunately, it’s easy to create journal columns in a Microsoft Word document.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to format an entire document or part of a document with log columns. I will also highlight a few issues you will need to deal with.
I’m using Microsoft 365 Desktop on a 64-bit Windows 10 system, but you can use older versions. Word for the web does not support columns. You can make changes to the document without damaging the columns, but you won’t see them, nor can you add or edit them in the web version. You will, however, see them noted as “column break” in the document.
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How to enable log columns for an entire document in Word
Log columns allow content to flow from column to column. You read the contents of the first column, then continue to the start of the second column.
You see these columns everywhere, and depending on the type of document, narrow columns are easier to read than text that extends from left to right margins. Figure A shows a simple document with default one inch margins.
To lay out the entire document in columns, click the Layout tab, then click the Columns drop-down menu in the Layout group. Choose the number of columns you want (Figure B). As you can see, you can choose up to three.
In Figure C, the content of the whole document now goes through two columns on each page. The second page does not look balanced because the second column is too short. This is one of those problems I alluded to earlier, but the solution – a column break – is easy.
How to insert a column break in Word
When you format content in columns, Word completely fills the columns until there is no more text. Therefore, the last column is often shorter than the others. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because you plan to insert a chart or other content to fill the column.
If you want the last column to be the same length as the others, you can add a column break. It’s easy, but you might not get it right the first time. Trying to get an exact match isn’t realistic; even when the columns are full, the two margins do not always match.
The bottom of the first page is a good example. The bottom rows are close, but the right column is a bit shorter. This is because Word automatically pushes a line to the next column to avoid a widow, the last line of a paragraph that is alone at the top of a page.
When trying to decide where to insert the column break, you’ll usually want both columns to be roughly the same length. This means pushing the contents of the left column into the right column. As a general rule, when the lengths don’t match exactly, you’ll want the left column to be the longest column. It’s a rule you can break if you can compensate for the imbalance.
Now let’s add a column break to the first column of page 2:
- Position the cursor at the beginning of the fifth full paragraph. It starts with “Themes and styles also help keep your…”.
- Click the Layout tab if necessary.
- In the Layout group, click the Breaks drop-down menu.
- Choose Column Break (Figure D).
The results may not be as close as you would like, as shown in Figure Ebut Word didn’t break a paragraph between the bottom of the left column and the top of the right, which you should avoid as much as possible.
If you want the bottom margins to be more uniform, and in this case, you will need to split a paragraph. If so, click the Undo button to reset both columns. Then do the following:
- Position the cursor in the fourth full paragraph at the beginning of the fourth line. It starts with “each other”. For example, you can add a… .”
- Add a column break as you did before.
Figure F shows the results. That’s about as close as it gets. If you go up another row, the left column will be longer than the right.
You can also create log columns with some of the content, but before you do that, let’s see how to delete log columns.
How to Delete Journal Columns in Word
You may not realize it, but by default your content is a single column. Remember when you set the content to two columns and the dropdown included a One option? It is the default value. To delete columns, choose it as follows:
- Click the Layout tab.
- In the Layout group, click the Columns drop-down menu.
- Choose one.
Word will remove both columns and extend the content between the left and right margins – that’s one column.
Now, let’s turn a few paragraphs into multiple columns.
How to Enable Log Columns for Part of a Document in Word
Sometimes you will see a document with a section with multiple columns in the middle of a document. To achieve this look, simply select the content you want to display as columns before choosing the number of columns. For instance:
- Select paragraphs five through 11 on the first page.
- Click the Layout tab.
- In the Layout group, click the Columns drop-down menu and select Two.
G-figure shows the results. Right away, you might notice that the results look lopsided. This is because you have a wrapped margin next to a flush margin.
It just seems weird, but there is a quick fix. With the columns still selected, click the Home tab, then click Justify in the Paragraph group. This stretches the contents of the two columns between the left and right margins of each column, as shown in H-figure.
Enabling columns in a Word document can add a bit of focus to a section or improve the readability of the whole document. Once you have the columns in place, there are more options to refine the look. In a future article, we will review these options.