Indents in Word

Applies to:  Word 2016, Word 2013, Word 2010, Word 2007, Word 2003

You can use indents in Word to make your documents look professional and easier to read. Indents are paragraph features that control how the text is aligned to the left and right margins. You can have three types of left indent:

  • Left Indent
  • First Line Indent
  • Hanging Indent

You can also indent the text of a paragraph from the right margin if you wish the paragraph to stand out from the rest, as in a quote.


Indents in Word are NOT the same as tabs, although in recent versions of Word if you haven’t changed the default setting if you press the tab key at the beginning of a paragraph Word will take it that you want a first line indent.  (I recommend that you change this setting).
[image showing first line indent markers]


You need to be in Print Layout (View, Print Layout) mode and you need to have the Ruler showing (View, Ruler)

The ruler line displays your Indent markers. You can see the indent for any paragraph by placing the cursor in that paragraph and looking at the ruler line:



The indent markers are powerful little tools on the ruler line.  At the left margin there are three markers, each controlling one of the three different types of left indent.  The right indent marker is just a little square on the right of the ruler line.


To adjust your indent for a paragraph, first place your cursor in the paragraph

  • To create a left indent: drag the bottom square to where you want the indent to be (all three markers move together)
  • To create a first line indent: drag the top triangle to where you want the first line to be
  • To create a hanging indent: drag the bottom triangle to where you want the rest of the paragraph to indent to
  • To create a right indent: drag the square on the right of the ruler line to where you want the indent to be

Tip! If you want to indent more than one paragraph, select the paragraphs first.

Keyboard shortcuts:

These handy little quick keys take the indents to the default tab positions (half an inch or 1.27 cm) on the ruler line. Press as often as you like to indent further

  • Left indent: Ctrl-m (to go back one tab position, press Shift-Ctrl-m)
  • Hanging indent: Ctrl-t (to go back one tab position, press Shift-Ctrl-t)

Note: There is no shortcut key for the First line indent, but as mentioned above, if you have not changed the default settings the Tab key will create a first line indent.