Word Processing for 5th Graders (and Their Teachers)

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

March 28, 2013

Note: This was originally written for Yael to teach her teachers how to teach using a word procesor. Sadly, it has come up again.

2015 - Yael is now a 7th grader, teacher typing has gotten worse.


Daddy asked what I was going to work on today. I told him a paper. Then I started telling him about how I had to type it. Two spaces after a period.  "Wrong." Said Daddy. "It is one space and always one space. It has been all of your life." Two spaces are for typewriters.

I need to type in 16 point type. Then switch to no bigger than 14 to turn in. That way it is easier to read. "Wrong." Said Daddy. "That is what zoom is for." You make things bigger on the screen with zoom.

I need to remember to type in double space. "Wrong." Said Daddy. "You type in single space to write your paper. If your teacher wants it turned in double spaced, open it up, switch the spacing to double space, and then print it.

I need to leave a space and indent the first word. "Yes, if you are using a pen." New paragraphs are either indented or separated by a line break, but not both. Line breaks are easier to read and most commonly used today.

For business writing most people use full justification. It looks better in print. This page is left justified because it needs to be read on different browsers and that works better online.

Centering, right justification, and indents are done with the paragraph and/or tab settings. Tab, tab, tab, space, space, space, will never, ever, ever work right, especially when printed. If you want your title centered, center justify it. Trust me, Word is much better at finding the exact center of the page than you are.

What is the final output going to be? The old rule was sans serif fonts for screens and sarif fonts for paper. That is fading. But stick to readable fonts.


Bold is for em­pha­sis. That is, the important stuff. If you are emphasizing more than 10% of the page, none of it is important. If you want darker print, use a darker font or change the toner in the printer. Come to think of it, if you dont' bold everything, the toner would last longer.


Italics is for names. There are lists of specific kinds of  names that should be in italics, but italics is not for emphasis, it is for names.


If you are using a pen, you underline for emphasis. My Grandma enjoys caligraphy. She could italisize a single word in a sentance. She wouldn't, she would underline. In the web world, underlines are for hyperlinks. This is what it says at Grammar Girl.

A bonus on underlines. Microsoft Office will automatically underline and make active any web address. This leads to print out with underlines that look funny. My daddy says that if you right click on a link you do not want to be a clickable link (like any link that is not going to be on a screen) you can remove the hyperlink.

Small Type and Large Type

Daddy says that one day, he was converting a document from WordPerfect to Microsoft Word. He discovered that for many years someone who should have known better used subscript for fine print instead of a small type face. That is BAD! BAD! BAD!

In a bibliography, you should quotation mark, underline, and italisize like the example.

Portman, Alan M. "Word Processing for 5th Graders (and Their Teachers)." Word Processing for 5th Graders (and Their Teachers). Alan M Portman, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://theportmans.info/gs/index.php?id=word-processing&lang=en>.


Websites to back all of this up

Typography for Lawyers. Grandpa was a lawyer but he let someone else type stuff for him.

Grammar Girl Very easy to follow.

It is always one space after a period. (Slate.com)

The argument for double spacing after a period that makes the point about single spacing. (The World's Greatest Book)

How to zoom in or out in a document. (Office.Microsoft.com)

How to adjust line spacing. (Office.Microsoft.com)

And a Bonus

I hate Comic Sans Comic Sans was created in 1994 by Microsoft specifically for comic books. Ban Comic Sans started in 1997. In short, if it isn't a comic, don't use Comic Sans.

That is the bad side of having geeky parents. They know how to use Office way better than my teachers.