Changing the Measurement Units for Your Word Documents (Inches or Centimeters or Vice Versa)
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated December 9, 2019
Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)
You can easily change the measurement system units in Microsoft Word for all of your documents. If you’d prefer to work in inches rather than cm (centimeters) or vice versa, simply change the measurement system in Word’s Options. You can choose inches, centimeters, millimeters, points or picas. Changes in the measurement system will affect Word’s Ruler as well as various dialog boxes (including the Paragraph dialog where you can change paragraph indents).
Unless the client or publication has a specific requirement for a type of measurement, most Microsoft Word users measure in inches or centimeters. Word and most graphic design programs support points, picas and other units and it is easy to convert from one unit to another.
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Changing the measurement system in Microsoft Word
To change the measurement system in Microsoft Word from centimeters to inches or to another unit of measure:
- Click the File tab in the Ribbon.
- Click Options.
- Click Advanced in the categories on the left.
- Scroll down to the Display group in the panel on the right.
- Beside Show measurements in units of, choose inches, centimeters, millimeters, points or pics from the drop-down menu.
- Click OK.
Below is the Options dialog box:
Below is the Ruler in Microsoft Word in inches:
Below is the Ruler in Microsoft Word in centimeters:
If the Ruler is not displayed, click the View tab in the Ribbon and ensure the Ruler check box is checked.
Understanding points and picas
The two units of measurement most commonly used for typesetting and design are points and picas.
A point is equal to 1/72 inch (72 points in an inch). To be more precise, 1 point is equal to .013836 inch so 72 points are actually .996264 inch. This is rounded up for practical reasons. Points are the measurement unit most often used in printed publications created by graphic designers to indicate the size of type (font size) as well as the space between lines (this would be line spacing in Word but is called leading in many other programs). Points are often abbreviated as “pt”. Typographers would have traditionally referred to a type setting as 12/16 which would mean a 12 point type with 16 point leading or line spacing.
A pica is slightly less than 1/6 inch and contains 12 points. Picas are often used for fixed horizontal measurements (most often column width). They are commonly used by graphic designers when designing newspapers, magazines, newsletters and ads. Picas are often abbreviated as “p” (such as 16p). For example, the standard width for one column of text on a three-column grid on an 8.5″ x 11″ document is 14 picas and 4 points (normally abbreviated as 14p4).
Although most Microsoft Word users tend to use inches or centimeters as their preferred measurement system, points are used for font size and the space before and after paragraphs (in the Paragraph dialog box).
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