This tutorial shows how to use the ruler in Microsoft Word. First, we are going to display the ruler. Then, we are going to use the ruler to change the margins, indent the first line of each paragraph, create hanging indents, and add tabs.
Table of Contents:
- How to Display the Ruler
- How to Use the Ruler to Change Margins
- How to Use the Ruler to Indent the First Line of Each Paragraph
- How to Use the Ruler to Create Hanging Indents
- How to Add Tabs to the Ruler
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The images below are from Word for Microsoft 365. These steps also apply to Word 2021, Word 2019, Word 2016, and Word 2013.
Are you on a Mac? Please see “How to Use the Ruler in Word for Mac.”
How to Display the Ruler
- Select the View tab in the ribbon.
- Ensure that Print Layout view is selected.
- Select Ruler in the Show group.
A horizontal ruler should now appear under the ribbon and a vertical ruler should appear on the left side of your screen.
If you want to hide the ruler, deselect Ruler in the View tab.
Pro Tip: How to Show the Vertical Ruler
If the vertical ruler is missing, you can display it by changing your Word Options settings.
- Select the File tab in the ribbon.
- Select Options in the Backstage view.
- Select the Advanced tab in the Word Options dialog box.
- Select Show vertical ruler in Print Layout view in the Display section.
- Select the OK button.
How to Use the Ruler to Change Margins
- Hover your pointer over the center of the left or right end of the horizontal ruler until your pointer becomes a double arrow. (You should see a tooltip that says, “Left margin” or “Right margin.”) Slide the double-arrow pointer to the left or right to adjust the margin.
- To adjust the top or bottom margins, hover your pointer over the center of the top or bottom of the vertical ruler until your pointer becomes a double arrow. Then, slide the double-arrow pointer up or down.
Further Reading: How to Adjust Page Margins in Microsoft Word
Pro Tip: Use the Alt Key for Precise Measuring
Press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard as you move any of the markers on the ruler to see exact measurements.
How to Use the Ruler to Indent the First Line of Each Paragraph
- Place your cursor in a paragraph.
- Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
- Select Select in the Editing group.
- Select Select Text with Similar Formatting in the drop-down menu. This option will select all the paragraphs in the document without items you most likely don’t want to indent, such as headings and figures.
- Move the First Line Indent marker (top ruler marker) to the right to the desired indent length. The first line of each paragraph should be indented as you move the marker.
Further Reading: Three Ways to Indent Paragraphs in Microsoft Word
How to Use the Ruler to Create Hanging Indents
A hanging indent extends the first line of a paragraph farther to the left than the rest of the lines.
- Place your cursor inside the paragraph in which you want to create a hanging indent. Or, select multiple paragraphs if you want to create several hanging indents simultaneously.
- Slide the Hanging Indent marker (bottom triangle marker) in the ruler to the right. (The square marker will move with the bottom triangle marker.) Your hanging indent will be created automatically as you move the marker.
Further Reading: How to Create Hanging Indents in Microsoft Word
How to Add Tabs to the Ruler
In Word, the Tab key on your keyboard moves your cursor to a specific location called a tab stop. Tabs can be used to indent paragraphs, but they can also be used for other purposes including creating single- and multi-column lists.
- Press Ctrl + A to select the entire document. Or, select the portion of your document to which you want to apply the tab.
Important Note: If you don’t select all or part of your document before creating your new tab, it will only apply to the paragraph your cursor is currently in or newly created content.
- Click the tab selector button until it changes to the symbol representing the tab you want.
- The left tab places left-aligned text to the right of the tab stop. (This is the most common tab stop.)
- The center tab centers text on the tab stop.
- The right tab places right-aligned text to the left of the tab stop.
- The decimal tab aligns text based on the first decimal placed on the tab stop.
- The bar tab creates a vertical line at the tab stop. (Technically, this is not a tab; it is for formatting multi-column lists.)
- Click the location on the ruler where you want to place the tab stop. The tab symbol will then appear on the ruler.
You can place multiple tab stops on the ruler. Each time you press the Tab key, your cursor will move to the next stop.
How to Delete Tabs on the Ruler
- Ensure that no text or other content is selected.
- Pull the tab symbol downward and release it. It will be removed from the ruler.
Further Reading: How to Create, Change, and Delete Tabs in Microsoft Word
Updated September 03, 2023