Sometimes, people like to align text. If you use a proportional font (only few fonts, such as ‘Courier New’, are not proportional fonts), space characters are not a good way to align text, because the width of spaces and characters varies. In many cases, tabs are more appropriate when you need to align text, whether the text should be left-aligned, right-aligned, or centered.

For instance, take a look at the following example. We are trying to explain the acronym AI. Using the proportional font ‘Times New Roman’, the ‘A’ is wider than the ‘I’. Now, it would be really cool if the hyphens were aligned. So, for padding, we put a second and then a third space between the ‘I’ and the hyphen. However, as turns out, we are not able to align the hyphens properly using spaces: One extra space is too few, two is too many.

Now, it does not require AI to get this right. We can simply use tab characters to align the text properly. So after removing the spaces and inserting a tab character we get something like this:

By default, Word sets left-aligned tab stops every half inch or so. You can override the tab stop placement by clicking Tabs on the Format menu. This gives you also the opportunity, to choose a different alignment, such as left, center and right, and other options.

See Also

Formatting Guidelines