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Table Cell Margins and Spacing Options in Word

Cell Margins and Cell Spacing are two important settings in any Microsoft Word Table but they aren’t used much and not well understood.

Cell margins are the spaces between your text and the edge of the cell. They can be set separately for the top, bottom, and either side of the cells.

To change the cell margins, we again click in the table and go to the Layout tab on the right. Then click Cell Margins in the Alignment group.

In the Table Options dialog that opens, use the spinners to incrementally change each of the four margins, or simply type in the margin that you want into each field; Top, Bottom, Left or Right.

The margins we’ve selected above are quite large, just to show you clearly how his setting changes your table.  Here’s the large cell margins (left) compared to zero cell margins (right).

You can, of course have different margins on different sides:

Individual, Row or Column Cell Margins

Table cell margins can be changed for a row, column or even a single cell, but it’s nowhere near the main Cell Margins ribbon button.

Select the column, row or cell you want to change then go to Table Layout | Table | Properties | Cell | Options.  UNcheck the box ‘Same at the whole table’ then change the margin settings.

Here’s a single row, highlighted a little by increasing the top & bottom cell margins.

Why Adjust Table Cell Margins?

Cell margins are useful to separate lines in a table, especially when there’s no gridlines. Change the Top & Bottom cell margins to separate the lines and improve readability.

When space is tight, reducing the default left & right cell margins can help fit a table or contents into the available space.

Cell Spacing Tricks in Word Tables

Word’s Table Options have an interesting choice, Cell Spacing. While cell margins are the space between the text and the edge of the cell, cell spacing puts space around each of the cells.

Cell spacing has a surprising effect on the look of a Word Table with single line borders.

Go to Table | Alignment | Cell Margins | Default cell spacing | Allow spacing between cells.

The default is OFF with no spacing.

Here’s how a Table looks using a standard single line border but increasing the cell spacing from the default, Zero.

Changes to Table Borders

As you can see, the single line table border becomes a twin gridline just by adding cell spacing to the same table.

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