It’s all about first impressions. But how much care do you put into dressing up your documents?
Is it all title, headings, subheadings, bullets and paragraphs, or do you put some more thought into the documents you create in Microsoft Word?
There are a lot of things that go into a professional Microsoft Word documentHow to Create Professional Reports and Documents in Microsoft WordHow to Create Professional Reports and Documents in Microsoft WordThis guide examines the elements of a professional report and reviews the structuring, styling, and finalizing of your document in Microsoft Word.Read More. But we are talking about first impressions here. So, let’s take on the first thing our eyes fall on – the cover page.
The cover page is the very first page of your document. Its purpose right at the beginning is to give the reader the “Big Idea” about the document. The why and wherefore is communicated through a specific title, the author name, date, a one-liner on the subject and any other bit of important information that you think is important for the reader.
What Does a Vanilla Cover Page Look Like?
You might have spotted monochromatic and simple cover pages on research documents and school essays. They are dictated by style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style. The title page takes a minimalist approach to cover page design. For instance, the title or topic of the study is centered one-third of the way down the page.
For an academic assignment, do check with your instructor before using a cover page.
But what if you want to give your document a cooler cover page when not dictated by a style guide but realize that you don’t have the design chops for it? Design your own.
Insert an Attractive Cover Page
Microsoft Word makes it painless to create a professional cover page.
The Office suite comes with a few well-designed cover pages that you can re-purpose for your document. There’s a good variety to choose from.
Open a new Word document. Click on the Insert menu on the ribbon. The dropdown for Cover Page is the first feature you will spot on the menu (under Pages). Click on tiny arrow next to it and open the inbuilt gallery of templates. Pick one from the 16 pre-formatted templates and three more on Office.com.
Select the one you like and click on it. The cover page appears at the beginning of the document by default. But to place it in any other location, right click on the cover page thumbnail in the gallery and select from the options given. Though, am not sure why you would want to!
Customize Individual Fields
Click on each pre-formatted field (the square brackets) and the whole thing gets highlighted with a blue field label on top. Type in your version for the given field. The author name might appear by default if the Office installation is in your name. Place the common information in Quick Parts and you don’t have to bother with typing them again and again.
Change the date fields with the drop-down arrow and select a date from a calendar. You can format all fields just like normal text.
You can easily edit graphical cover page elements like any other image. Just click on the graphic to display the Drawing Tools and Picture Tools menus on the Ribbon.
Change the Design on the Fly
Customizing a pre-formatted cover page is a piece of cake. The templates consist of formatted controls and graphic boxes that come in different color themes. So, you can change any part of the template on the fly.
Notice a picture on the cover page template? Maybe, you would like to swap it out with a logo or another more appropriate image. Just right click on the picture and click Change Picture in the context menu.
Changed your mind about the entire cover page? While working on one cover page, you can change it for another cover page by selecting a new template from the drop-down. The new template retains the field entries.
Note: To replace a cover page created in an older version of Word, you must delete the first cover page manually, and then add a new design from the cover page gallery.
Click on Save to finalize the cover page as a document.
If you would like to save the cover page for later use in another document, select the entire cover page. Click on Insert > Cover Page > Save Selection to Cover Page Gallery. You can use the same menu to remove a selected cover page from the gallery.
Design Your Own Cover Page
Microsoft Word templates are a time-saving solution, but they don’t allow your personality to shine through. To add a personal touch, you should put in a bit more effort and make a thoughtfully designed cover page from scratch.
You have all the image editing tools in Microsoft Word at your disposal. When you can design your own logo in Microsoft Word, a cover page is less of a chore. Borrow or steal ideas from the process.
The screenshot below displays a cover page I created in Microsoft Word from scratch. I used a few basic Shapes to create the design and formatted them with color.
Save Your Custom Template
Complete your design on a fresh Microsoft Word document. Save this document as a Microsoft Word template (File > Save As > Microsoft Word Template) in a location of your choice.
Now, the next steps are about adding your own cover page to the default choices under the Insert menu. Follow these steps:
Press CTRL + A to select the entire page.
Add these selections to the Quick Parts gallery. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Quick Parts (the Text Group). Select Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery… from the drop-down.
Enter the details in the dialog for a new Building Block. Building blocks are reusable Microsoft Word elements that you can add to any of the galleries available in Word. This is what the dialog box looks like:
- Name: Give the cover page a Name.
- Gallery: Choose “Cover Pages” from the dropdown.
- Category: Choose a category. For better organization, make a new category.
- Save in: Save it in your template or in the building block. When saved as a building block, you can use it in any Word document without opening the template.
Click OK and close the Building Block dialog box. Go to the Insert menu and check your new cover page template.
Add Some Style with a Cover Page
A cover page is one of the best ways to stylize your document. But is it one of the more underused features of Microsoft Word7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use Them7 Underused Microsoft Word Features and How to Use ThemAre you overlooking some of Microsoft Word's most useful features? This application features a surprising number of underused tools and options. We have unearthed seven and will show you how to use them.Read More? A Word document is often bland. So, do consider the merits…
- A cover page gives the reader a quick visual of the content inside.
- Save and re-use a generic company-wide cover page in the gallery.
- Convert a document with a cover page to PDF with one button and send to any device.
Most of us don’t commonly employ a cover page with a document. Or do you? Let us know the benefits you find in inserting a well-designed cover page.
Image Credit: faisalsk007 via Wikimedia Commons
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It’s the pain that a large number of students share: you’ve received your assignment brief from your school/institution and the content you can write… no problem. But that pesky formatting!!! What is “12-point font”? What does “double line spacing” mean? Some schools even impose penalties (deduct marks) if you don’t get this right! This guide has been put together with the aim of removing some of that pain and hassle.
Note: There are more efficient ways of doing this using page styles, however this guide is more suited to the beginner to intermediate level user.
For this tutorial I am using OpenOffice.org, version 3.3.0, but it should be similar in NeoOffice and LibreOffice (v. 3.0 + ).
The steps are:
- Setting page margins using page styles
- Set up your Cover / Title Page
- Insert a Table of Contents
- Setting and Using Paragraph Styles – Double Spacing and 12-Point Fonts
- Apply the Styles
- Write your assignment
- Populate your Table of Contents
Normally you will get assignment instructions in a form something like the following. Some institutes like to highlight this very clearly. Some are embedded in the course requirements like this one:
Assignment instructions from your university may look like this
1. Setting Page Margins using Page Styles
One of the easiest things to do is to set up page styles that will take care of the formatting for you.
The first style we will set is a page style. This is so that we can set the Page Margin.
Margins are the space outside the text area. Usually there will be a marking in Writer. It will look something like this:
First we are going to change our page style.
Select Format –> Styles and Formatting… (or Ctrl-T for Windows, CMD-T for Mac users).
Then in the pop-up box, select the page style icon (as indicated by the arrow below). We are going to modify two styles in the following steps – ‘First Page’ and ‘Default’.
Right click on ‘First Page’ and select ‘Modify…’.
Then change the margins in the Page Style box (the page tab). It should look like the following.
Set the margins to the measurements required by YOUR assignment
Click on OK.
Then you will right click on the style ‘default’ (just like you did for ‘First Page’ above). Also set the margins to the measurements required by your assignment (the above screen shot shows 1 inch, for example. You need to specify your measurements here).
If you are looking to change the margins to 2cm, and your measurements are in inches, then you need to change your units of measure before you perform the above steps.
Now double click on the ‘First Page’ style:
This will apply the style to your page.
2. Set up your Cover / Title Page
Usually on the front page of your assignment you need to include important information, like the name of your institution, your name, your student number, etc. A good idea is to include this on your cover page (title page).
You can be as creative or decorative as your school permits, however a good guide for information that you include is:
- Your School Name
- Your Class Name and Number
- Your Name and Student Number
(or all your group names and student numbers, if this is a group assignment)
- Title of the assignment / report / research paper
- Total number of pages
- Due Date and Date Submitted
- Lecturer / Teacher Name
- Any other information your school has requested.
You will then end up with a page that looks something like this.
Bonus Tip: For those that have to include the total number of pages, you can have Writer calculate this for you automatically. Select Insert –> Fields –> Page Count and it will automatically insert the total number of pages.
3. Insert a Table of Contents
Before we get to the actual table of contents, we will need to insert a page break (go to the next page). The neatest way to do this is to select Insert –> Manual Break from the menu, and then select ‘Page Break’.
Now you will have a new page.
You then select Insert –> Indexes and Tables –> Indexes and Tables… from the top menu.
You will then see the Table of Contents box like the following. We are going to accept all the defaults on this for the time being, and so we will just click on OK.
After clicking on OK, you will then have a Heading for the Table of Contents. You won’t see any listings under the heading, because you don’t have any content yet! Writer will generate the table of contents as we go along.
Now we insert another page break. But this will be different from the previous one.
To start, select Insert –> Manual Break…
Then select as per the image below, and click on OK. Make sure the page style is set to ‘Default’.
4. Setting and Using Paragraph Styles – Double Spacing and 12-Point Fonts
Now we will address the following:
- Double line spacing
- 12 point font
- Times New Roman font
These will all be set using Styles.
Select Format –> Styles and Formatting… (or Ctrl-T for Windows, CMD-T for Mac users).
Click on the paragraph styles icon. Then right click on ‘Default’.
Click on the ‘Font’ tab (1 in the image below), and then make the adjustments to match the requirements in your assignment.
In this example, I selected ‘Times New Roman’ as my font (2), and I set the font size to 12pt (3). If your assignment says Times font, 10 point, then you will change the font style to ‘Times’ and the size to 10pt.
Then click on the ‘Indents & Spacing’ tab (see image below).
From this you will select your line spacing.
So if your assignment says double-spaced, this is where you select that. This will set the spacing between the lines. It is so that the marker has space to write comments.
Click on OK.
Now right-click on ‘Heading 1’ and ‘Heading 2’ and change each of the fonts. Leave the size, unless your teacher/lecturer says that even headings must be the same size as everything else (I like my headings to be a little bigger so that they stand out).
Now when you type your assignment, you will have something that looks like this.
5. Apply the Styles
To apply the styles that you have just set, highlight the text you want to style, and then select the style from the drop-down apply styles menu in the toolbar. See the image below.
More detailed information on applying styles can be found here.
6. Write your assignment
I can’t tell you what to write, but use styles to format your assignment as in the previous step, including:
- Heading 1 – the major sections in your assignment
- Heading 2 – for the sub headings
- Default – for the general text areas
This will allow you to then go to the next step and automatically create a Table of Contents.
7. Populate your Table of Contents
Remember step 3? Well it was just a heading – Table of Contents – because you hadn’t actually written anything to be indexed.
Now, go back to your Table of Contents page.
Right click on the heading – Table of Contents – and select ‘Update Index/Table’
Select 'Update Index/Table
Then you will see the updated index. Note how these relate to the headings that you have styled. If you haven’t formatted any headings from Step 5, then nothing will happen when you update.
If nothing happens when you update, go back, style your headings as in step 5, and try to update again. You can update your index after every change you make to ensure that it reflects the latest headings in your document.
So I hope this has gotten you started on your assignment formatting and moving forward you won’t lose any marks for not formatting your assignment incorrectly.