How to adjust the indents and tabs in Microsoft Word

Updated: 05/01/2023 by Computer Hope
Microsoft Word indents and tabs shown on the ruler

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

First line indent with Tab

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


Pressing Tab multiple times increases the indent each time it's pressed.

Indent paragraph with a keyboard shortcut

A complete paragraph can be indented with the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+M and pressing the keyboard shortcut more than once will indent the paragraph further.


To reverse the indent, you can also press Ctrl+Shift+M.

Adjusting indents using the Ruler

To adjust a paragraph indent size, use the Ruler, which is below the menu bar and resembles the picture below. If this feature is not visible, see our document on enabling the Ruler.

Towards the left side of the Ruler, look for indent markers that resemble an hourglass, like the image below.

Microsoft Word Ruler

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


To change the indentation for an entire document, select all text (press Ctrl+A), then adjust the indent spacing in the ruler as detailed above.


If a large indent is created when pressing the Tab and adjusting the indent on the Ruler doesn't work, adjust the Left Tab Stop in the Ruler.

Changing indents in the Paragraph window

Microsoft Word Online

In Microsoft Word Online, the web version, you can adjust the indents through the Paragraph settings. To view these settings, right-click with your mouse anywhere in the document and select Paragraph Options.

The Paragraph settings window is displayed. In the Indentation section, the left and right indent settings can be adjusted. You can also adjust the first line indent and hanging indent size with the Special drop-down list and By option.

Microsoft Word Online - Paragraph window with Indentation settings.

Microsoft Word desktop application

In the Microsoft Word desktop application, another way to adjust the indents is through the Paragraph settings. To view this window, double-click the markers in the ruler, click Format, and then Paragraph. You can also place the cursor in the paragraph, right-click with your mouse, and choose Paragraph.

As seen below in the Paragraph window, under the Indentation section, the left and right indent settings can be adjusted. You can also adjust the first line indent and hanging indent size under the Special option 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 on the Ribbon in Word 2007 and later

If you're using a newer version of Microsoft Word that uses the Ribbon, such as Word 2007 or 2013, Word 365, or Word Online (the web version), do the following.

  1. Click the Layout or Page Layout tab.
  2. Adjust the indent settings in the Paragraph section.

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


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.


To adjust the spacing between the bullet and the text in a list, you may need to move the Left Tab Stop in the Ruler.

Microsoft Word Online

In Word Online, the web version, the only way to adjust bullet list indentation is to change the left indent spacing through the horizontal ruler.

Microsoft Word 2007 and later

Word bullet indents

In Word 2007 and later versions of the Word desktop application, follow the steps below.

  1. Click one of the bullets at the level you want to change in the document.
  2. Right-click the bullet and select Adjust List Indents in the pop-up menu.
  3. In the Adjust List Indents window, change the Bullet position to adjust the bullet indent size or change the Text indent to adjust the text indent size after a bullet. As shown, the Bullet position is at .25 inches, and the Text indent is at .5 inches (or one-half inch).

Microsoft Word 2000 and earlier

  1. Place your cursor in a bulleted or numbered line in the document.
  2. Click the Format menu at the top of the Word program and select the Bullets and Numbering option.
  3. In the Bullets and Numbering window, click the Customize button on one of the first three tabs, depending on the type of list you are changing.
  4. In the window that opens, adjust the indent size for the bullet and text position. At the bottom of the window, you can preview how the indentation sizing looks and make changes accordingly until you get it the way you want.

Bullets menu in Word

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