Microsoft Word lacks a native feature that prescribes a specific number of characters per line of a document. Proportionally spaced typefaces allocate varying amounts of width to individual characters, making the capital "M" or "W" the widest letters in the alphabet and the lower-case "I" the narrowest. Set your document to use a monospaced typeface and you can manipulate document margins to specify and limit the number of characters on each line.
Things You'll Need
Switch to the Home tab of the Microsoft Word ribbon. In the Font section, click on the arrow next to the name of the current typeface and select a monospaced font from the drop-down menu. Your choices include Courier, Courier New, Monaco and Andale Mono.
Open the font size drop-down menu and set it to 12. At this size, a monospaced font sets 10 characters per inch of line width.
Divide the number of characters per line by the number of characters per inch to calculate the line width that contains that character count. For example, if you want 60 characters per line, divide 60 characters by 10 characters per inch to yield 6 inches of line width, or "60 / 10 = 6."
Subtract the line width from the page width and divide the result by 2 to calculate your document's left and right margins. For example, to yield 6 inches of line width on an 8.5-inch-wide sheet of paper, you need 2.5 inches of margin space, evenly split at 1.25 inches on each vertical edge of the sheet, or "8.5 - 6 = 2.5" and "2.5 / 2 = 1.25."
Switch to the Page Layout tab of the Microsoft Word ribbon. In the Page Setup section, click on the "Margins" item and choose "Custom Margins." Enter 1.25 inches for both the left and right margins.
Tips & Warnings
- The monospaced typefaces on your computer draw from your installed, active fonts and vary depending on your operating system and its version.
- If you switch to a proportionally spaced typeface, your character count will change for every line of your document.
- Information in this article applies to Microsoft Word 2013 for Windows and Microsoft Word for Mac 2011. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions.
- Photo Credit Ken Drysdale/iStock/Getty Images
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