Microsoft Word is the application most written assessment tasks are expected to be submitted in. Word saves files in a .doc or .docx format.

Whilst other programs may also be able to save files into these formats, the formatting is unreliable and you may lose marks. Formatting your document correctly is a key part of any assignment. Information provided here is designed to make your requirements easy to complete.

Free updates to the most recent Office software package is available for students from the ITS webpage. We recommend you update for security and usability purposes.

Page layout

Line spacing

Most university papers require the content to be double spaced, although some request a spacing of 1.5. For the specifics of your course, check your course description or the assignment information.

To change the spacing, select the icon indicated in the image below.

Remember: to change text, first select it, then make the change.


In the Paragraph section, select 2.0 in the drop down menu to achieve double spacing.

Any text you have selected will change as you mouse over the options. The change will not occur until you click your selection.

Tip: to select the entire document, hold Ctrl and A.

Select font

Readability is important. Do not choose fancy fonts, coloured backgrounds or different sizes within your document. Your assignment is best formatted  in either:

  • Times New Roman 12pt  or
  • Arial 11pt

To apply a new font style to your text, first highlight/select the text in your document. Then from the HOME toolbar, choose the font in the drop down box as shown below.


The fonts available are in alphabetical order. You may need to scroll a long way down to find Times New Roman, but once you have used it, it will show as recently used, as you can see in the image below.

The number in the drop down box next to the font name is the point size of the letters in your work. Set the size to 12 for Times New Roman or 11 for Arial.


When your lecturer requests Arial they do not want a variation like Arial Black. Just use Arial.

Set margin size

Margins are the space between the edge of printed paper and your text. It is accurate to set these at 2.5cm, though some tasks may have specific settings. Always check your course description, or ask for your lecturer’s preference.

To edit your margins, first select the ‘Layout’ tab on your toolbar then open the ‘Margins’ drop down menu.


You can see that a custom margins setting has been created for assignments. To create you own custom setting scroll to the bottom of the menu and select ‘Custom Margins’.


You should change each of the numbers for left, right top and bottom to your required margin size (which for assignments is usually 2.5cm). Remember to select OK to complete the settings. Your work will adjust immediately to the new margins you have chosen.


The original setting of 2.54 is equal to one inch. This is a standard for the USA.

Start a new page

Certain parts of an assignment may need to start on a separate page. The most efficient way to achieve this is with a page break. This is a hidden code which tells the word processor to jump to a new page. The advantage of this is that as you edit your text it does not affect the formatting of the pages after the break.

To insert a page break, first place your cursor where you want the break to occur. On the tool bar, select the tab ‘Layout’. Now open the drop down menu ‘Breaks’ and select the ‘Page’ option.


If you want to edit or remove a page break in your work, first make it visible. To do this go to the HOME tab on your toolbar and select the Show/ Hide button, as in the image below.


The page break location will become visible. You can now select and move or delete the break just as you would for any text.


Headers and Footers

Add page numbers

Before adding a page number to your work, check your assignment requirements. Does it need to be at the top of the paper, at the bottom, on the left or the right?

For this example, we will place a page number at the top right side of the page.

First set up a header or footer. Instructions for this is available in the tab above. Ensure it is selected and ready for editing. Your toolbar will show a special tab, Header & Footer Tools / Design.

Now select the location for your page number from the three Type-here options. With your preferred location highlighted, open the Page Number drop down menu.

header page toolbar

In the drop down menu scroll down to Current Position. Another layer of menu will open; select Plain Number.


Remember: if you do not need the other Header/ Footer locations, select the Type-here and press DELETE to remove them.

Bullet and Numbered Lists

Starting and editing a list

In a word document, there are many options for the symbols to use in a list. The list can be numbered, use symbols, shapes, letters or even pictures.

There are three drop down menus for you to choose from, as indicated in the HOME tab:


Once you make a selection, your cursor will indent and the chosen symbol will display. Your new text will now be shown behind that bullet. When you press enter, the cursor moves to a new line and a new bullet will display.

If you have chosen a numbered list, the next consecutive number will display. If you press Enter a second time without adding any text after the bullet, the list will end.

To have a number of points within a single point of your list, you can activate a second level. To do this, move the secondary information to the right with the increase indent button as shown below. These arrows are a great tool for editing your list. You can use the left arrow to move items out of the list or to increase their importance level.

Bullet edit

Define your own lists and levels within those lists 

Table of contents

The ‘Table of Contents’ function in Word is a great tool that will save you hours of work. To create and automatically update your Table of Contents, you need to create headings throughout your paper. Word then searches for those headings and uses them to build the table.

Create and edit a table of contents 

Use and edit heading styles 

Read our general guidelines on layout and formatting.