How to adjust the indents in Microsoft Word

There are two types of indents that can be adjusted: paragraphs and bullet points. Each has a separate way of adjusting the indent size. Below are the different ways you can adjust the indentation in Microsoft Word.

First line indent with tab
Adjusting indents using the ruler
Changing indents in the Paragraph window
Adjust the indent in the Word 2007 and 2010 Ribbon
Adjusting the bullet and numbering indentation

First line indent with tab

The first line indent can always be created using the Tab key on the keyboard. To change the first line indent size or indent the full paragraph, continue reading the below suggestions.

Adjusting indents using the ruler

To adjust a paragraph indent size, use the Ruler, which is just below the menu bar and resembles the picture shown below. If this feature is not visible, see our document on how to enable the Ruler. Towards the left side of the Ruler, look for indent markers that resemble an hourglass, like the image shown below.

Microsoft Word Ruler

The top marker (down arrow) controls the first line indent, the middle marker (up arrow) controls the hanging indent (the indent for lines after the first line in each paragraph), and the bottom marker (small box) controls the left indent. To adjust these indents, you can click and drag each marker to the right or left.

Note: If you are seeing a large indent spacing when pressing the Tab key and adjusting the indent on the Ruler does not fix this issue, you may have a Left Tab Stop in the Ruler that needs to be removed or adjusted.

Changing indents in the Paragraph window

Another way to adjust the indents is to view the Paragraph settings. To view this window, double-click on the markers in the Ruler, click Format and then Paragraph, or with the cursor in the paragraph, right-click and chose Paragraph. As seen below in the Paragraph window, the left and right indentation, the first line indent, and hanging indent size can all be adjusted. The hanging and first indent line settings are found under Special in the Indentation section.

Microsoft Word Paragraph window

At the bottom of the Paragraph settings window, you can preview the look of the indent sizes you are setting and make changes accordingly until you get it the way you want.

Adjust the indent in the Word 2007 and 2010 Ribbon

If you're using a new version of Microsoft Word, such as Word 2007 or 2010, that uses the Ribbon, adjust the indentation of a paragraph by clicking Page Layout and then adjusting the indent settings in the Paragraph section, as shown below. To view the Paragraph window mentioned in the above section, click the small down arrow indicated by the red arrow in the picture below.

Microsoft Word Ribbon indent

Adjusting the bullet and numbering indentation

Tip: The easiest method of adjusting the bullets and number list in all versions of Word is to adjust the left indent through the Microsoft Word ruler bar.

Note: If you want to adjust the spacing between the bullet and the text in a list, you may need to adjust the Left Tab Stop in the Ruler.

Office bullet indentsMicrosoft Word 2007, 2010, and later

To adjust the indenting for bullet points or number list, click on one of the bullets you want to change and then click the down arrow next to the bullets or number list, as shown in the picture to the right. In the drop down menu, click Change List Level and choose the level for your selected list.

Microsoft Word 2000 and earlier

To adjust the indenting for bullet points, place your text cursor in a bulleted or numbered line in Microsoft Word. Then, in the Format menu, select Bullets and Numbering. In the Bullets and Numbering window, click on the Customize button on one of the first three tabs, depending on the type of list you are changing.

Bullets menu in Word

In the next window that opens, you can adjust the indent size for the bullet position and the text position. At the bottom of that window, you can preview how the indentation sizing will look and make changes accordingly until you get it the way you want.

You can also access the Bullet and Numbering window by placing your text cursor on a bulleted or numbered line and right-clicking on the Word document. In the pop-up menu, select Bullets and Numbering.

Additional information

  • See our bullet and indent definitions for related information and links.