When a paragraph has a hanging indent, the first line extends farther to the left than the rest of the lines. Hanging indents are common in bibliographies, reference lists, and works cited pages. This tutorial shows two ways to create hanging indents in Microsoft Word:
The ruler method is faster but less precise, so it is best for short blocks of text. The paragraph dialog box method offers more control over the length of the indent and is best for longer blocks of text.
This tutorial is also available as a YouTube video showing all the steps in real time.
Watch more than fifty other videos about Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat on my YouTube channel.
Important Note: These steps are for blocks of text formatted as paragraphs. Paragraphs end with a pilcrow (¶). They will also work with paragraphs that have manual line breaks inserted by pressing Shift + Enter.
However, these steps won’t work with multiple paragraphs spaced to look like a single paragraph.
You can see the pilcrow and manual line break symbols by turning on the Show/Hide button in the Home tab.
The images below are from Word in Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). The steps are the same in Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010. However, your interface may look slightly different in those older versions of the software.
How to Create Hanging Indents with the Ruler
If your ruler is already visible, skip to step 3.
- Select the View tab in the ribbon.
- Select Ruler in the Show group.
- Place your cursor inside the individual paragraph in which you want to create a hanging indent. Or, select multiple paragraphs if you want to create several hanging indents simultaneously.
Pro Tip: Avoid selecting the entire document with methods such as Ctrl + A because you will select headings and other items that don’t normally have hanging indents.
- Slide the bottom triangle marker in the ruler to the right. (Note that the square marker will move with the bottom triangle marker.
Pro Tip: If you have trouble moving the bottom triangle marker separately from the top triangle marker, move both markers to the right and then move the top marker back to the left.
Your hanging indent will be created automatically as you move the ruler marker.
How to Create Hanging Indents with the Paragraph Dialog Box
- Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
- Select the text in which you want to create hanging indents (see figure 4).
- Select the dialog box launcher in the Paragraph group.
- Select Hanging from the Special menu in the Paragraph dialog box.
- Enter the length of your indent in inches (decimals or whole numbers) in the By text box. Or, use the increment arrows to increase or decrease the indent 0.1 inch per click.
- Select the OK button.
The Paragraph dialog box will close, and your hanging indents should appear in your selected text.