Create a Hanging Indent in a Microsoft Word Document
by Avantix Learning Team | Updated May 16, 2022
Applies to: Microsoft® Word® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 365 (Windows)
You can create a hanging indent in Microsoft Word using the Ruler, the Paragraph dialog box or a keyboard shortcut. A hanging indent is created when the first line of a paragraph is at a location to the left of the subsequent lines in the paragraph. The term is often used to refer to a first line indent. Either way, the first line of a paragraph is indented or outdented. A hanging indent is typically used for bullets and numbering or to cite a reference.
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A paragraph in Word is anything with a hard return after it (you have pressed Enter or Return). If you want to create a hanging or first line indent in a multi-line paragraph, there should not be hard returns at the end of each line of text.
To view hard returns or paragraph marks and other non-printing characters in Microsoft Word:
- Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
- Click Show/Hide ¶ in the Paragraph group. Paragraph marks, tabs, spacing and manual page breaks will display but will not print.
Creating a hanging indent using the Ruler
A common way to create a hanging or first line indent is to use the Ruler. If the Ruler is not displayed at the top of the document, click the View tab in the Ribbon and select the Ruler checkbox.
To create a hanging using the Ruler:
- Select the paragraph(s) you want to indent. If you are changing only one paragraph, simply click in it.
- On the Ruler, drag the First Line Indent marker (top triangular marker) to the position where you want the first line of text in the selected paragraph(s) to start.
- Drag the bottom triangular marker to the position where you want the second line and all subsequent lines in the selected paragraph(s) to start (the box below will move with it).
- If you want the triangular markers to move at the same time, drag the box below the bottom marker. If the top and bottom markers are at the same location, this is called a nested indent.
In the following examples, the first line indent marker and the left indent marker are at different locations on the Ruler:
Creating a hanging indent using the Paragraph dialog box
To create a hanging or first line indent using the Paragraph dialog box:
- Select the paragraph(s) you want to indent.
- Click the Home tab in the Ribbon.
- Click the dialog box launcher on the bottom right of the Paragraph group. The Paragraph dialog box appears.
- Enter the desired amount for the left indent (which will affect all lines in the paragraph except the first one (enter in inches or centimeters depending on your measurement system units).
- Under Special, select Hanging or First Line from the drop-down menu and then in the By box, enter the desired amount for the hanging indent.
- Click OK.
In the following example, indents have been entered for the Left and First Line in the Paragraph dialog box (in this case, entered in inches):
Creating a hanging indent using a keyboard shortcut
You can press Ctrl + T to apply a hanging indent to a paragraph. This shortcut will move all lines except the first one to the next tab stop. If there are no user-defined tab stops in the paragraph, Word indents to the first default tab stop. If you keep pressing Ctrl + T, Word will keep indenting by tab stop to the right.
Press Ctrl + Shift + T to decrease or remove the indent (move to the left).
If you click at the beginning of a paragraph and press Tab, Word will indent the first line to the first user-defined tab stop or the first default tab stop.
Other ways to indent paragraphs
When you apply bullets or numbering, Microsoft Word changes the indents of the first and subsequent lines in a paragraph or paragraphs automatically.
If you are comfortable using styles in Word, you can apply, modify or create styles that include hanging or first line indents. If you are working on a long document with a lot of indented paragraphs, this is the best approach.
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