A reader wrote to say he had written a business letter that included some prices listed in a column
— but that the numbers didn't line up properly on his printout, although they appeared okay on his screen.
Lining Up Numbers
Properly in Columns
Well, back when this sort of letter was created on a typewriter with mono-spaced characters, using the spacebar to line up numbers worked just fine. But it's even easier on a computer, using Tab settings and your Tab key.
In Microsoft Word, as well as in all word processing programs, the default Tab settings are 1/2 inch apart. This means each time you hit the TAB key the cursor moves 1/2 inch to the right. However, you can override this default and create your own Tab settings.
Let's say you want to create a menu of items that have a brief description followed by a price; and that you would like the prices to line up on their right edges. In MSWord you can go to Format>Tabs and choose to have the numbers right-align at, say, five inches from the left margin. This will let you type a description and then hit your TAB key, whereupon any price you type in will be right-aligned.
Each time you press ENTER to begin another line, the Tab settings will be carried forward. When your menu is completed and you want to return to the default settings, go to Format>Tabs and click Clear All. These options are also found in MSWorks under Format>Tabs, and in WordPerfect under Format>Line>Tab Set.
Using the Horizontal Ruler
Another way to set Tabs in MSWord is to use its Horizontal Ruler. If you don't see the Ruler, click on View>Ruler, whereupon a tiny
"L" will be displayed at its left end. This means "Left Tab" and clicking the "L" will display symbols for Right, Center, and Decimal Tab, among others.
Using the above-described "menu" as an example, you would click on the "Right Tab" setting and then click "5" on the Ruler.
Numbers Will Follow As Ruler Marker is Moved
One of the handiest features of this type of menu is that the tabbed items can be easily moved left or right. Simply mouse-select all lines in the menu and drag the Tab marker seen on the Ruler. Be careful not to drag it off the Ruler, or the settings will be lost.
Setting multiple Tabs (as in prices for Small, Medium, and Large) is equally easy. Establish them in the first line and they will be carried forward to each subsequent line by hitting ENTER.
Other options found under Format>Tabs are "Leaders," such as dots or dashes that automatically lead from one item to another. No more pecking away at the "period" key, like we did on a typewriter.
Even more advanced settings can be created by adjusting the three movable Tab markers seen on the Ruler, such as a "hanging indent" whose first line of a paragraph begins near the left margin, while subsequent lines begin, say, a half inch to the right. It pays to experiment with these moveable markers.