Easy parallel columns in Word

Newspaper columns are easy to create in Word, but parallel columns can be troublesome. The solution? Use Word tables to create your parallel columns.

Columns are easy to create in Word — usually. Newspaper columns flow from top to bottom and then snake around to the top and down to the bottom again. In Word, you just click a button and like magic, you have newspaper columns. On the other hand, parallel columns are a bit more troublesome. These columns are read left to right. You can use tabs, but the guesswork makes these columns awkward to work with. Moving or deleting a column is difficult at best. Displaying the tab characters make the chore easier, but you still have to delete or move items one by one.

Tina Norris Fields, a Michigan colleague, recently shared an easy way to create parallel columns: Use a table and then inhibit the borders. Now, that's magic!

Use any method you like to create the table. I usually enter the first few rows and then let Word create the table based on the existing items. If you know the dimensions, you can create the table first and then enter data. It doesn't really matter. Use the AutoFit format and let Word adjust the table as you enter the columnar data.

When you're done, turn off the table's borders as follows:

  1. Select the entire table by clicking anywhere inside it. Then, choose Select from the Table menu and choose Table. Or click the double-arrow icon in both Word 2003 and Word 2007.
  2. With the table selected, choose Borders And Shading from the Format menu and click the Borders tab. (In Word 2007, choose Borders And Shading from the Borders And Shading drop-down list in the Paragraph group on the Home tab. This list is also available in the Table Styles group on the Design tab.)
  3. Click the None option under Setting.

Word will gray out the borders on screen. However, Word won't print the borders, which you can easily confirm by viewing the document in Print Preview.

Using the table structure allows you to easily move or even delete parallel columns.

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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