Margins are the blank spaces between the edges of your document and the text or images on the page. Setting appropriate margins is an important part of formatting documents in Google Docs.
The default margin in Google Docs is 1 inch on all sides. However, you may want to adjust margins for various reasons:
- To fit more text on each page
- To leave space for binding a printed document
- To meet specific style guide or publication requirements
- To improve readability
Fortunately, Google Docs makes it easy to customize margins to suit your needs. This article explains everything you need to know about managing margins in Google Docs.
Why Margins Matter
Before adjusting your margins, it helps to understand why margins matter in document design.
White space created by margins makes text less dense and easier to read. Margins essentially create “breathing room” around paragraphs. Especially for lengthy documents like reports and essays, generous margins improve readability.
Margins accommodate binding. Printed documents need to leave extra space on the left margin to allow for binding. Setting the left and right margins unequally provides binding space.
Style guides often dictate specific margin sizes. Academic papers, scientific publications, business reports, and other documents may require adhering to precise margin formatting. Using the correct margins demonstrates attention to detail.
Narrower margins fit more text. If you need to make a document more concise or reduce the number of pages, reducing the margins allows you to include more text without adjusting the font size.
Adjusting Margins in Google Docs
Google Docs provides two straightforward ways to modify margins: using the rulers or the Page Setup dialog box.
The easiest way to change margins is with the ruler feature.
- To display rulers, go to View > Show Ruler
- Position your cursor over the triangles along the edge of the horizontal ruler
- Click and drag the triangles to adjust the margins
This method allows you to see margin changes in real-time. However, rulers only control the left and right margins. To alter top and bottom margins as well, use the Page Setup dialog box instead.
Page Setup Dialog Box
For precise control over all four margins:
- Go to File > Page setup
- In the Margins section, enter your desired margin in inches for the top, bottom, left, and right
- Click OK
The Page Setup dialog box also includes options to change paper orientation, size, page coloring, and more.
Setting Custom Default Margins
Tweaking margins each time you start a new document can become tedious. Luckily, Google Docs enables you to save custom default margins.
After adjusting margins in the Page Setup dialog box:
- Check the box next to “Set as default”
- Click OK
- New Google Docs will now use the customized margins automatically
You can return to the default 1 inch margins at any time by unchecking this box.
Formatting Tips for Margins
Utilizing margins effectively takes your Google Doc formatting to the next level:
Use mirror margins for formal reports or academic papers. Set the top/bottom margins equal and left/right margins equal (e.g. 1 inch all around).
Leave extra space on the left for binding. Increase the left margin to 1.5 or 2 inches if printing and binding the finished document.
Get creative with margins for unique effects. Try wide margins just on the left or bottom. Use extremely narrow margins for compact text-heavy documents.
Adjust margins gradually to find the optimal balance. Boost margins to 1.25 inches or shrink to .75 inches to tweak readability.
Reset any page to the default margins. Highlight just that page’s text then access Page Setup to override document-wide changes.
Properly leveraging margins requires some experimentation. But mastering this basic formatting technique will take your Google Docs skills to the next level.
Troubleshooting Margin Issues
Occasionally you may encounter frustrating margin behavior in Google Docs:
- Text doesn’t align properly at the margin: Select the text, go to Format > Align & Line Spacing, and select “Justified” alignment.
- Irregular gaps at top/bottom margin: Verify no blank paragraphs or extra page breaks are present.
- Left margin off screen: Increase the right margin to match instead of decreasing the oversized left margin.
- Margins reset randomly: Ensure “Set as default” is not enabled in Page Setup.
Fortunately, the flexibility and user-friendliness of Google Docs makes diagnosing and resolving margin problems relatively painless.
Putting Margins to Work
Now that you know how to optimize margins in Google Docs, leverage this handy formatting feature to make your documents look clean, professional and easy-to-read. Proper margins help convey attention to detail and enhance readability—critical for long-form writing.
Use the techniques outlined in this guide to take control of margins for good. Feel free to experiment with creative margin sizes and effects once you grasp the basics. Mastering margins marks a milestone in developing advanced Google Docs formatting skills.