In MS Word, how to limit lines to 35 characters?
Thread poster: Waleed Mohamed

Waleed Mohamed  Identity Verified
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 00:27
English to Arabic
+ ...
Dec 29, 2007

Hi All,

After finishing the translation in MS Word, the client asks me to keep the lines limited to 35 characters, as the text will be displayed on screen for subtitling purposes.
The Word document is 5 pages long.

Please let me know how to limit the lines to 35 characters.

Thanks for your kind help and happy new year to all!


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:27
German to English
+ ...
Suggestion Dec 29, 2007

1. Select the whole of the text and change the font to a fixed width font (e.g. Courier). Fixed width fonts are the fonts that you would have had on a typewriter 20 years ago. Choose a font size that is easy to read.

2. Add a first line that is exactly 35 characters long (presumably spaces are counted as characters too). There is a counter for characters somewhere in the bottom border of the Word window (you can watch the number increase as you type). If you can't find this number, you can count your characters manually. Perhaps you could use this line:
123456789 123456789 123456789 12345

3. Make sure that no text is marked (or select the whole text), then grab the right hand border (in the ruler at the top of the Word window) and drag it so that your sample line exactly fits (and if you add a "6" the last "word" jumps to the next line).
If you can't see the ruler, select it with View>Ruler.

Then, all lines will have a maximum of 35 characters. You can then see at a glance which lines of text you need to edit to make them fit into this width.

[Edited at 2007-12-29 08:28]

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Waleed Mohamed  Identity Verified
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 00:27
English to Arabic
+ ...
Thank you! Dec 29, 2007

Thanks Victor for your kind help!

Best regards


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Local time: 17:27
Spanish to English
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Why would that be necessary? Dec 29, 2007

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

... You can then see at a glance which lines of text you need to edit to make them fit into this width.

Unless the text has single words of over 35 words (eg: URLs), or complex text structures (tables, etc.) - which seems unlikely if the text is to be shown as subtitles - then why might it be necessary to edit the text after this 35-character formatting? If it is left or right flushed, or centred, it looks OK 'as is'. If you set left & right justification it will probably look awful, regardless of any editing you might do, as the lines are padded with spaces between words.

Incidentally, if you copy-paste Victor's post into Word and proceed as suggested, the lines will actually be 36 characters wide - the lines include the space after the last word on each line. Depending on what the client actually wants (or thinks he needs ) you might need to set the width to 34 'visible' characters +plus one space).

Finally, the control line works better if done like this (without spaces): 12345678901234567890123456789012345
otherwise it breaks up.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Quite frankly? I use Windows Notepad Dec 29, 2007

I use Windows Notepad for subtitles. As I work with two 32-char lines separated by a "|" to make subtitles, I write:

... and then turn on the line wrap feature, and adjust the window widhth flush to the right of the last "2. I type immediately above "that line. "|" is the line-break code for two-line subtitles in Subtitle Workshop. If my subtitle "|" is to the right of the "standard" line, I'll know that the first line is too long. If it overflows/rewraps, it's too long.

In case you want to spell-check or whatever, Word can use the TXT files generated there. I only prefer such files to DOC or RTF, because they are clean, pure text. No hidden formatting commands there.

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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:27
English to German
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Guess I am a dinosaur. Dec 30, 2007

Whenever I am supposed to provide subtitles as a word file, I simply draw a vertical line at the appropriate place. My clients like that. I (a former art director) have full control over how the lines will look like in terms of reader-friendliness.

Why? This is the old-fashioned and approved way how, e.g., press releases were written. Uh, maybe I am an old hag.

If there are more complicated methods that I am supposed to learn for mysterious reasons, I am curious.

[Edited at 2007-12-30 07:17]

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:27
English to Hungarian
+ ...
A bit late, but... Jan 4, 2008

You can copy the whole text into a table adjusted to the right width and the text centred. That is the easy part.
However, the result of portioning off the text to within 35 characters won't be as good as your client might expect.

What is difficult - and by the sound of it your client probably doesn’t have the foggiest about - is to make sure, that the length of the subtitles will be compatible with the timing of the subtitles, and readability is ensured by the appropriate division of the text.

Without going into a lengthy explanation, it is sufficient to say, that not all subtitles are "on" for the same length, or indeed, by dividing the text to readable lines, you will realise that they won't be the same length. That is strictly speaking not your problem.

Also, the text and the sentences would have to be edited to make sure, that line separations are made such a way that each line contains easily digestible parts of a sentence, and for example, you don't have an odd word slipping into the next subtitle, making the one with the missing last word and the next one starting with this single word before the following sentence.

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In MS Word, how to limit lines to 35 characters?

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