Advanced text effects in Microsoft Word | Kerning Stretching Watermarks Drop Cap
Office Mastery
S H A R E
Assign a 'primary' menu

Adding a Professional Finish
With Advanced Text Effects
in Microsoft Word

Advanced text effects in Microsoft Word

BY JASON MORRELL

Beyond basic font formatting, there are lots of interesting ways to manipulate your text to achieve some great effects. Stretching, spacing and kerning are three easy techniques you can apply to items such as titles. You may also wish to add a watermark, use graphic separators or add a drop cap.

This post runs through the advanced text features offered by Microsoft Word and discusses how and why to use each one.

1. Superscript and Subscript text

Superscripted text is smaller than the text around it and is raised above the baseline. For example:

  • 16th September
  • 360o
  • 42

Subscripted text is smaller than the text around it and sits below the baseline. For example:

  • H2O
  • CO2

To apply superscript or subscript, first select the text then use one of these 3 methods.

Method 1: Use the ribbon icons

1.  Select the Home tab.

2.  Click the Superscript or Subscript icons in the Font group.

Superscript and subscript icons

Method 2: Use font effects

1.  Select the Home tab.

2.  Click the launcher icon in the bottom-right corner of the Font group.

The launcher

The Font dialog box is displayed. The Text Effects occupy the lower half of the box. Superscript and Subscript are two of the options.

Method 3: Use a shortcut key

The keyboard shortcut to superscript text is Ctrl Shift +

The keyboard shortcut to subscript text is Ctrl +

2. Stretching, spacing and positioning text with precision

When creating a title, most people simply choose a large font size. While this is okay, as far as it goes, you can add a touch of professionalism by stretching or spacing the text. Both are found in the same dialog box.

1.  Select the text.

2.  Select the Home tab.

3.  Click the launcher in the bottom-right of the Font group. The Font dialog box is displayed.

4.  Select the Advanced tab.

To stretch the text:

Click the Scale drop-down arrow and choose a larger percentage, or simply type the percentage you require. 100% is normal width, 200% is double width and so on.

To compact the text:

Enter a smaller percentage in the Scale box. For example, 75% will compact the width to ¾ of normal size.

To add extra space between each letter (character) in the text:

1.  Choose Expanded from the Spacing drop-down list.

2.  Enter a point size in the By box. For example, if you are using font size 20 and you expand the spacing by 10 points, you will add half a character width between each letter.

To make the letters fit tighter together:

1.  Choose Condensed from the Spacing drop-down list.

2.  Enter a point size in the By box.

3. Raising or lowering text to re-align it

Some fonts are naturally positioned higher than others, and when you are mixing fonts or small graphics together the positioning might look awkward.

For example, in my training guides, keystrokes or button images are used a lot.

Here is a sample sentence. Notice how the bottom of TAB and ENTER sit on the baseline of the text.

After lowering TAB by 3pt and lowering ENTER by 5pt, here is the result. Notice how it flows more naturally.

After lowering text

To reposition text in relation to the baseline:

1.  Select the text.

2.  Select the Home tab.

3.  Click the launcher in the bottom-right corner of the Font group.

4.  Select the Advanced tab.

5.  On the Position row, nudge the By arrows up or down.

When you increase the By value, Position will switch to Raised.

When you decrease the By value, Position will switch to Lowered.

Raising or lowering text

4. Kerning

Kerning is a technique that was introduced with the printing presses in the 1800s. It recognises particular pairs of letters and positions them in such a way to make reading easier.

For example, an upper case ‘T’ followed by a lower case ‘i’ is kerned so that the ‘i’ almost sits underneath the bar of the ‘T’, rather than beside it.

Not every pair of letters should be kerned but there are hundreds of character pairs that are kerned by professional publishers and printers.

Word knows what to do. You just need to switch kerning on.

1.  Select the text that you wish to kern (normally the whole document).

2.  Select the Home tab.

3.  Click the launcher in the bottom-right of the Font group. The Font dialog box is displayed.

4.  Choose the Advanced tab.

5.  Tick the box labelled Kerning for fonts.

6.  Specify a font size to be used as the cut-off point for the kerning. Any text of the specified point size and above will be kerned.

Kerning for fonts

5. Ligatures and stylistic effects

Ligatures are two or more characters that are formed into a single character in order to create more readable or attractive text. Open Type fonts support four types of ligatures:

  • Standard ligatures. Designed to enhance readability. Standard ligatures include "fi", "fl", and "ff".
  • Contextual ligatures. Designed to enhance readability by providing better joining behaviour between the characters that make up the ligature.
  • Discretionary ligatures. Designed to be ornamental, and not specifically designed for readability.
  • Historical ligatures. Designed to be historical, and not specifically designed for readability.

Modern Open Type fonts may come with a variety of stylistic sets available, but you often have to invest some time finding a good one. They may also come with different number-spacing options and number-form options.

Here is a sample of different combinations using the Gabriola font.

To experiment with ligatures, number-spacing, number-forms and stylistic sets:

1.  Select the document text that you want to format.

2.  Select the Home tab.

3.  Click the launcher in the bottom-right of the Font group. The Font dialog box is displayed.

4.  Choose the Advanced tab.

5.  Select an option from each of the drop-down lists.

6. Working with old conventions - how big is a point?

Whenever you see a reference to font size, it is specified in points, e.g. font size 10, font size 12. What is 'point size'? How big is a point? Again, this is a historical convention that dates back to the 1800s.

There are 72 points in one inch.

Therefore, if you are using font size 12, the text size is 12/72 of an inch high when it is printed.

Put another way, 1 inch contains exactly 6 lines of size 12 text (6 x 12 = 72).

You never know when a fun fact like that might pop up in pub trivia quiz.

7. Adding a Drop Cap

A drop cap is where the first letter of the first word in the first paragraph is enlarged. A drop cap is usually added at the beginning of a new chapter or section.

This grabs the reader's attention and guides them to the beginning of the text. 

Drop caps are used in most novels and can easily be added to add a touch more professionalism to your document

1.  Select the Insert tab.

2.  Click the Drop Cap icon.

3.  Choose the Dropped style or the In-Margin style.

To change the settings, e.g. how many lines the drop cap should cover, click the Drop Cap Options in the menu.

8. Quick visual separators you can add with your keyboard

Type 3 dashes ( --- ) to display a single line separator

Single line separator

Type 3 equals signs ( === ) to display a double line separator

Double line separator

Type 3 hashes ( ### ) to display a triple line separator

Triple line separator

Type 3 underscores ( ___ ) to display a thick separator

Thick line separator

Type 3 asterisks ( *** ) to display a dotted line separator

Dotted line separator

Type 3 tildes ( ~~~ ) to display a wavy line separator

Wavy line separator

9. Many more amazing separators

There is also a Horizontal Line tool you can use.

1.  Position the cursor where the line is to be inserted.

2.  Select the Home tab | Paragraph group, or
Table Tools | Design tab (if you are working with a table).

3.  Click the drop-down arrow on the Border icon.

4.  Select Horizontal Line.

5.  For more choices, click Borders and Shading instead of Horizontal LIne.

6.  Choose a line style, line colour and line width.

7.  Click the border icons around the preview so that only the top or bottom icon is on.

Set a custom paragraph border

10. Using standard watermarks

A watermark is an image or item of text that appears in the background on every page, behind the text, and often full-page height. In the old days, you could buy watermarked paper from a stationer. The watermark was often an indication of status, e.g. Basildon Bond is a high-quality brand of stationery. 

You can create a pre-designed watermark with a single click, and a customised watermark with just a little more effort. You can use text or images as a watermark.

To add a predesigned text watermark:

1.  Select the Design tab.

2.  Click the Watermark icon in the Page Background group.

3.  Choose one of the pre-set designs in the gallery. The watermark is added instantly to the pages in the current document.

11. Using custom text watermarks

To create a customised text watermark:

1.  Select the Design tab.

2.  Click the Watermark icon in the Page Background group.

3.  Choose Custom Watermark... The Printed Watermark dialog box is displayed.

4.  Choose the Text Watermark option.

5.  Enter your watermark text in the Text box, and choose the font, size, colour and direction of the text. Leave the Semitransparent tick box ticked.

12. Using custom image watermarks

To create a customised text watermark:

1.  Select the Design tab.

2.  Click the Watermark icon in the Page Background group.

3.  Choose Custom Watermark... The Printed Watermark dialog box is displayed.

4.  Choose the Picture Watermark option.

5.  Click the Select Picture... button.

6.  Locate and select your image.

7.  Tick the Washout box, if you want.

8.  Choose a Scale option to resize the image if you want.

9.  Click OK

To edit the watermark image or text:

1.  Double-click inside the header or footer area.

2.  Select the Design tab under the Header & Footer Tools banner, if necessary.

3.  Untick the Show Document Text option in the Options group.

4.  The watermark image or text (WordArt) can now be selected, resized or manipulated in any way you want.

5.  Click the Close Header and Footer icon in the Close group.

To switch off the watermark:

1.  Select the Page Layout tab.

2.  Click the Watermark icon in the Page Background group.

3.  Choose Remove Watermark.

13. Adding a side banner to your pages

Sometimes, rather than a watermark, you may wish to add a banner down one side of the document, on every page. The technique is similar to adding a watermark, but everything is done through the header and footer.

1.  Double-click inside the header area of the page (the top margin area).

2.  Select the Design tab under the Header & Footer Tools banner, if necessary.

3.  Untick the Show Document Text option in the Options group.

4.  Insert a WordArt with the required text.

5.  Rotate the text 90 degrees to display it vertically.

6.  Stretch the WordArt image to full page height and position to the left, or the right side of the page.

7.  Set the Word Wrapping of the WordArt to Square. This prevents the document text from overlapping the WordArt text.

8.  Click the Close Header and Footer icon in the Close group.

14. All the key points again

  • To superscript text (e.g. 360o) or subscript text (e.g. H2O), select the character(s) to format, display the Font dialog box and tick Superscript or Subscript on the Standard tab.
  • On the Advanced tab of the Font dialog box you can stretch, shrink, space out, compact and kern text.
  • For modern Open Type fonts, you can apply different ligatures, number-spacing, number-forms and stylistic sets.
  • There are 72 points in 1 inch of printed text.
  • To add a drop cap, select the Insert tab, click the Drop Cap icon and select a style.
  • To add a single-line page separator, type 3 dashes followed by space or Enter.
  • To add a double-line page separator, type 3 equals signs followed by space or Enter.
  • To add an HTML horizontal line separator, click the Border icon (of paragraph or table) and select Horizontal Line.
  • Standard or custom watermarks can be added to the document. Select the Design tab and choose Watermark.
  • Custom watermarks can be either text- or image-based. Select Custom Watermark from the Watermark menu and complete the dialog box.
  • Side banners can be added by inserting a graphic (picture, shape, WortArt etc.) into the header, then resizing and repositioning the graphic onto the main document body.

In what interesting ways have you used these advanced text effects? Share in the comments below.

If this post helped, or you have a question, drop a quick comment below. I always love to hear from my readers. Here's to your learning and success. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Jason Morrell blog signature
Jason Morrell, Office Mastery

About the author

Jason Morrell


Jason loves to simplify the hard stuff, cut the fluff and share what actually works. Things that make a difference. Things that slash hours from your daily work tasks. He runs a software training business in Queensland, Australia, lives on the Gold Coast with his wife and 4 kids and often talks about himself in the third person!

SHARE

>