Indents and Tabs

Indenting text


In many types of documents, you may wish to indent only the first line of each paragraph. This helps to visually separate paragraphs from one another. It's also possible to indent every line except for the first line, which is known as a hanging indent.




To indent using the Tab key:


A quick way to indent is to use the Tab key. This will create a first line indent of 1/2 inch.

  1. Place the insertion point at the very beginning of the paragraph you wish to indent.


  1. Press the Tab key. On the ruler, you should see the first-line indent marker move to the right by 1/2 inch.
  2. The first line of the paragraph will be indented.


If you can't see the ruler, select the View tab and then click the check box next to Ruler.


Indent markers


In some cases, you may wish to have more control over indents. Word provides indent markers that allow you to indent paragraphs to the location you desire. The indent markers are located to the left of the horizontal ruler, and they provide several indenting options:

  • First-line indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Adjusts the first-line indent
  • Hanging indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Adjusts the hanging indent
  • Left indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Moves both the first line indent and hanging indent markers at the same time (this will indent all lines in a paragraph)


To indent using the indent markers:

  1. Place the insertion point anywhere in the paragraph you wish to indent, or select one or more paragraphs.


Click, hold, and drag the desired indent marker. In our example, we'll click, hold, and drag the left indent marker. A live preview of the indent will appear in the document.


Release the mouse. The paragraphs will be indented.


To indent using the Indent commands:


If you want to indent multiple lines of text or all lines of a paragraph, you can use the Indent commands.

  1. Select the text you wish to indent.


On the Home tab, click the desired Indent command:

  • Increase Indent: Increases the indent by increments of 1/2 inch. In our example, we'll increase the indent.
  • Decrease Indent: Decreases the indent by increments of 1/2 inch.
  • indent_increase_decrease

The text will indent.


To customize the indent amounts, select the Page Layout tab and enter the desired values in the boxes under Indent.




Using Tabs gives you more control over the placement of text. By default, every time you press the Tab key, the insertion point will move 1/2 inch to the right. Adding tab stops to the ruler allows you to change the size of the tabs, and Word even allows you to apply more than one tab stop to a single line. For example, on a resume you could Left Align the beginning of a line and Right Align the end of the line by adding a Right Tab.


Pressing the tab key can either add a tab or create a first-line indent, depending on where the insertion point is. Generally, if the insertion point is at the beginning of an existing paragraph, it will create a first-line indent; otherwise, it will create a tab.


The tab selector

The tab selector is located above the vertical ruler on the left. Hover the mouse over the tab selector to see the name of the active tab stop.


Types of tab stops include:

  • Left Tab Left Tab Icon: Left-aligns the text at the tab stop
  • Center Tab Center Tab Icon: Centers the text around the tab stop
  • Right Tab Right Tab Icon: Right-aligns the text at the tab stop
  • Decimal Tab Decimal Tab Icon: Aligns decimal numbers using the decimal point
  • Bar Tab Bar Tab Icon: Draws a vertical line on the document
  • First Line Indent Bar Tab Icon: Inserts the indent marker on the ruler, and indents the first line of text in a paragraph
  • Hanging Indent Bar Tab Icon: Inserts the hanging indent marker, and indents all lines other than the first line

Although Bar Tab, First Line Indent, and Hanging Indent appear on the tab selector, they're not technically tabs.


To add tab stops:

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs you want to add tab stops to. If you don't select any paragraphs, the tab stops will apply to the current paragraph and any new paragraphs you type below it.


Click the tab selector until the tab stop you wish to use appears. In our example, we'll select the Decimal Tab.


Click the location on the horizontal ruler where you want your text to appear (it helps to click on thebottom edge of the ruler). You can add as many tab stops as you want.


Place the insertion point in front of the text you wish to tab, then press the Tab key. The text will jump to the next tab stop.


To remove a tab stop, click, hold, and drag it off of the ruler.


Word can display hidden formatting symbols such as the space bar (), paragraph (), and Tab key () markings to help you see the formatting in your document. To show hidden formatting symbols, select theHome tab, then click the Show/Hide command.