How to Set Up Paragraph Indenting in Word 2016

By Faithe Wempen

In Microsoft Word, the indentation of a paragraph refers to the way its left and/or right sides are inset. In addition to a left and right indent value, each paragraph can optionally have a special indent for the first line.

If the first line is indented more than the rest of the paragraph, it’s known as a first-line indent. (Clever name.) If the first line is indented less than the rest of the paragraph, it’s called a hanging indent. Here are some things to remember about indenting paragraphs:

  • When a paragraph has no indentation, it’s allowed to take up the full range of space between the left and right margins.

  • When you set indentation for a paragraph, its left and/or right sides are inset by the amount you specify. Many people like to indent quotations to set them apart from the rest of the text for emphasis, for example.

  • First-line indents are sometimes used in reports and books to help the reader’s eye catch the beginning of a paragraph. In layouts with vertical space between paragraphs, however, first-line indents are less useful because it’s easy to see where a new paragraph begins without that help.

  • Hanging indents are typically used to create listings. In a bulleted or numbered list, the bullet or number hangs off the left edge of the paragraph, in a hanging indent. However, in Word, when you create bulleted or numbered lists, Word adjusts the paragraph’s hanging indent automatically, so you don’t have to think about it.

    Indentation examples.

    Indentation examples.
  • To increase or decrease a paragraph’s left indent:

    • Click the Decrease Indent button to move the paragraph’s left indentation 0.5” to the left.

    • Click the Increase Indent button to move the paragraph’s left indentation 0.5” to the right.

      Controls for changing indentation on the Ribbon.

      Controls for changing indentation on the Ribbon.

You can also change indentation by dragging indent markers on the ruler.

If the ruler doesn’t appear, mark the Ruler check box on the View tab.

Select the paragraphs to affect and then drag a marker, as follows:

  • The upper triangle on the left is the First Line Indent marker. Drag it to affect only the first line.

  • The lower triangle on the left is the Hanging Indent marker. Drag it to affect all except the first line.

  • The square on the left is the Left Indent marker. Drag it to affect all lines on the left. If you drag it when the First Line Indent and Hanging Indent markers are set to different values, it moves them both, maintaining the relative distance between them.

  • The triangle on the right is the Right Indent marker. Drag it to affect the right indent (all lines).

  • The margins for the entire document are indicated by the spot where gray meets white on the ruler. You can drag that spot to change the margins for the while document (not just the selected paragraphs).

    Drag markers on the ruler to change indents.

    Drag markers on the ruler to change indents.

You can also create a first-line indent by positioning the insertion point at the beginning of a paragraph and pressing the Tab key. Normally this would place a 0.5-inch tab at the beginning of the paragraph, but the Word AutoCorrect feature immediately converts it to a real first-line indent for you.

To set left and/or right indents with precise numeric values, use the Left and Right text boxes on the Layout tab, in the Paragraph group. For each of these, enter a number or use the increment buttons:

  • Left indent.

  • Right indent.

    You can use the Layout tab’s Paragraph group to control left and right indentation.

    You can use the Layout tab’s Paragraph group to control left and right indentation.

For the ultimate in indent control, follow these steps to use the Paragraph dialog box:

  1. Select the paragraph(s) to affect.

  2. Click the dialog box launcher in the Paragraph group on the Home or Layout tab.

    Click the dialog box launcher.

    Click the dialog box launcher.
  3. Set left and right indents in the Left and Right text boxes, respectively.

  4. (Optional) Open the Special drop-down list and choose First Line or Hanging.

  5. Enter the amount of first-line or hanging indent in the By box.

    Set up indents in the Paragraph dialog box.

    Set up indents in the Paragraph dialog box.
  6. Click OK.