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How to Manipulate a Paragraph with the Word 2010 Ruler

Paragraph formatting in Word 2010 can be confusing. A graphical way to manipulate a paragraph’s indentation and margins is to use the Ruler. The Ruler may be hidden in your copy of Word. To show the Ruler, click the View Ruler button, found atop the vertical (right) scroll bar. Likewise, to hide the Ruler, click the button again.

The Ruler appears on the top of the writing part of the Word window. In Print Layout view, a vertical ruler also shows up and runs down the left side of the window. (That ruler is just for show.)

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The dark gray part of the Ruler (outside ends) is beyond the page margins. The lighter gray part is inside the page margins, and the Ruler measures that space from the left, starting with zero inches.

On the Ruler, you find four gizmos that control paragraph indenting:

  • Downward-pointing triangle: The paragraph's first line can be set independently of the left margin by dragging the First Line Indent doojobbie to the left or right.

  • Upward-pointing triangle on right: To adjust a paragraph's right margin, grab the Right Indent guy on the ruler and drag him to the right or left.

  • Upward-pointing triangle on left: To adjust the paragraph's left margin, grab the Left Indent thing on the Ruler and slide it to the left or right. Note that this gizmo moves both the Hanging Indent and First Line Indent guys together.

  • Block: The Tab gizmo is used to set the various tab stops used in Word.

The Ruler measures from the page’s left margin, not from the left edge of the page. (The page’s left margin is set when you format a page of text.) The Ruler works fine for visually setting indents, but when you need to be precise, use the Paragraph dialog box (click the Dialog Box Launcher button in the lower-right corner of the Home tab's Paragraph group).

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