PowerPoint 2016: Indents and Line Spacing

Lesson 14: Indents and Line Spacing



Indents and line spacing are two important features you can use to change the way text appears on a slide. Indents can be used to create multilevel lists or to visually set paragraphs apart from one another. Line spacing can be adjusted to improve readability or to fit more lines on a slide.

Optional: Download our practice presentation.

Watch the video below to learn more about using indents and line spacing.

To indent text:

Indenting helps to format the layout of text so it appears more organized on your slide. The fastest way to indent is to use the Tab key. An alternative method is to use one of the Indent commands. With these commands, you can either increase or decrease the indent.

  • To indent using the Tab key: Place the insertion point at the very beginning of the line you want to indent, then press the Tab key.
    indenting text with the Tab key
  • To indent using the Indent commands: Place the insertion point at the very beginning of the line you want to indent. From the Home tab, select the Increase List Level command.
    Using the Increase Indent command on the Home tab

To decrease an indent, select the desired line, then press Shift+Tab or the Decrease List Level command.

Indenting lists and paragraphs

Indenting will give different results, depending on whether you are working with a list or a paragraph.

  • Paragraph: Indenting the first line of a paragraph using the Tab key creates a first-line indent. This helps to separate paragraphs from each other, as in the examples above.
  • List: Indenting a line of a list creates a multilevel list. This means the indented line is a subtopic of the line above it. Multilevel lists are useful if you want to create an outline or hierarchy.
    a multilevel list

Once you've created a multilevel list, you may want to choose a different bullet style for different levels of the list to make them stand out even more. Review our lesson on Lists to learn how.

custom bullets within a multilevel list

Fine-tuning indents

Sometimes you may want to fine-tune the indents in your presentations. You can do this by adjusting the indent markers on the Ruler. By default, the Ruler is hidden, so you'll first need to show the Ruler.

To show the Ruler:

  1. Select the View tab on the Ribbon.
  2. In the Show group, check the box next to Ruler. The Ruler will appear.
    turning on the Ruler

Indent markers

Indent markers are located to the left of the horizontal ruler, and they provide several indentation options.

  • First-line indent marker: Adjusts the first line of a paragraph
    first line indent marker
  • Hanging indent marker: Adjusts every line of a paragraph except for the first line
    hanging indent marker
  • Left indent marker: Moves both the first-line indent and hanging indent markers at the same time, indenting all lines in a paragraph
    left indent marker

To indent using indent markers:

  1. Place the insertion point anywhere in the paragraph where you want to indent, or select one or more paragraphs.
  2. Go to the desired indent marker. In our example, we'll use the left indent marker.
    moving the Left indent marker
  3. Click and drag the indent marker as needed. When you're done, the selected text will be indented.
    indenting text with the Left tab marker

Customizing bullet spacing

When working with lists, PowerPoint allows you to fine-tune the space between bullets and text by using the first-line indent marker or the hanging indent marker.

To change the bullet spacing:

  1. Select the lines you want to change, then go to the desired indent marker. In our example, we'll use the hanging indent marker.
    selecting bullets to adjust
  2. Click and drag the indent marker as needed. When you're done, the bullet spacing will be adjusted.
    adjusting bullet spacing

Line spacing

PowerPoint allows you to adjust the amount of space between each line in a list or paragraph. You can reduce the line spacing to fit more lines on a slide, or you can increase it to improve readability. In some instances, PowerPoint may automatically change the font size when you adjust the line spacing, so increasing the line spacing too much may cause the text to be too small.

To format line spacing:

  1. Select the text you want to format.
    selecting paragraphs of text
  2. On the Home tab, locate the Paragraph group, click the Line Spacing command, then select the desired line spacing option from the menu.
    adjusting line spacing
  3. The line spacing will be adjusted.
    the applied line spacing settings

If you want to adjust the line spacing with even more precision, select Line Spacing Options from the drop-down menu. The Paragraph dialog box will appear, allowing you to fine-tune the line spacing and adjust the paragraph spacing, which is the amount of space that is added before and after each paragraph.

using the Paragraph dialog box to customize line and paragraph spacing


  1. Open our practice presentation.
  2. On the last slide, select the entire bulleted list and change the line spacing options to 12 pt before and 0 pt after.
  3. Indent the second bullet to make it a subtopic under the first bullet.
  4. Show the Ruler if it's not already visible.
  5. For each subtopic, select it and drag the left indent marker to 1 inch (or 2.5 cm). Note: These are the bullets that do not begin with times.
  6. When you're finished, your slide should look something like this:
    Indents and Spacing Challenge