Word 2013: Indents and Tabs

Lesson 11: Indents and Tabs



Indenting text adds structure to your document by allowing you to separate information. Whether you'd like to move a single line or an entire paragraph, you can use the tab selector and the horizontal ruler to set tabs and indents

Optional: Download our practice document.

Indenting text

In many types of documents, you may want to indent only the first line of each paragraph. This helps to visually separate paragraphs from one another. It's also possible to indent every line except for the first line, which is known as a hanging indent.

Screenshot of Word 2013First line indent
Screenshot of Word 2013Hanging indent

To indent using the Tab key:

A quick way to indent is to use the Tab key. This will create a first-line indent of 1/2 inch.

  1. Place the insertion point at the very beginning of the paragraph you want to indent.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Placing the insertion point
  2. Press the Tab key. On the ruler, you should see the first-line indent marker move to the right by 1/2 inch.
  3. The first line of the paragraph will be indented.

    Screenshot of Word 2013The indented paragraph

If you can't see the ruler, select the View tab, then click the check box next to Ruler.

Screenshot of Word 2013Showing the Ruler

Indent markers

In some cases, you may want to have more control over indents. Word provides indent markers that allow you to indent paragraphs to the location you want. The indent markers are located to the left of the horizontal ruler, and they provide several indenting options:

  • First-line indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Adjusts the first-line indent
  • Hanging indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Adjusts the hanging indent
  • Left indent marker Bar Tab Icon: Moves both the first-line indent and hanging indent markers at the same time (this will indent all lines in a paragraph)

    Screenshot of Word 2013The three indent markers

To indent using the indent markers:

  1. Place the insertion point anywhere in the paragraph you want to indent, or select one or more paragraphs.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Selecting paragraphs to indent
  2. Click, hold, and drag the desired indent marker. In our example, we'll click, hold, and drag the left indent marker. A live preview of the indent will appear in the document.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Moving a paragraph
  3. Release the mouse. The paragraphs will be indented.

    Screenshot of Word 2013The indented paragraphs

To indent using the Indent commands:

If you want to indent multiple lines of text or all lines of a paragraph, you can use the Indent commands.

  1. Select the text you want to indent.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Selecting text to indent
  2. On the Home tab, click the desired Indent command:
    • Increase Indent: This increases the indent by increments of 1/2 inch. In our example, we'll increase the indent.
    • Decrease Indent: This decreases the indent by increments of 1/2 inch.

      Screenshot of Word 2013The Indent commands
  3. The text will indent.

    Screenshot of Word 2013The indented text

To customize the indent amounts, select the Page Layout tab and enter the desired values in the boxes under Indent.

Screenshot of Word 2013Customizing the indent amounts


Using tabs gives you more control over the placement of text. By default, every time you press the Tab key, the insertion point will move 1/2 inch to the right. Adding tab stops to the Ruler allows you to change the size of the tabs, and Word even allows you to apply more than one tab stop to a single line. For example, on a resume you could left align the beginning of a line and right align the end of the line by adding a Right Tab.

Screenshot of Word 2013Using two types of alignment on the same line

Pressing the Tab key can either add a tab or create a first-line indent, depending on where the insertion point is. Generally, if the insertion point is at the beginning of an existing paragraph, it will create a first-line indent; otherwise, it will create a tab.

The tab selector

The tab selector is located above the vertical ruler on the left. Hover the mouse over the tab selector to see the name of the active tab stop.

Screenshot of Word 2013The tab selector

Types of tab stops include:

  • Left Tab Left Tab Icon: Left-aligns the text at the tab stop
  • Center Tab Center Tab Icon: Centers the text around the tab stop
  • Right Tab Right Tab Icon: Right-aligns the text at the tab stop
  • Decimal Tab Decimal Tab Icon: Aligns decimal numbers using the decimal point
  • Bar Tab Bar Tab Icon: Draws a vertical line on the document
  • First Line Indent Bar Tab Icon: Inserts the indent marker on the ruler and indents the first line of text in a paragraph
  • Hanging Indent Bar Tab Icon: Inserts the hanging indent marker,and indents all lines other than the first line

Although Bar Tab, First Line Indent, and Hanging Indent appear on the tab selector, they're not technically tabs.

To add tab stops:

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs you want to add tab stops to. If you don't select any paragraphs, the tab stops will apply to the current paragraph and any new paragraphs you type below it.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Selecting text to tab
  2. Click the tab selector until the tab stop you want to use appears. In our example, we'll select Decimal Tab.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Selecting a tab stop
  3. Click the location on the horizontal ruler where you want your text to appear (it helps to click on the bottom edge of the ruler). You can add as many tab stops as you want.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Adding a tab stop to the Ruler
  4. Place the insertion point in front of the text you want to tab, then press the Tab key. The text will jump to the next tab stop.

    Screenshot of Word 2013Moving text to the Tab stop

Removing tab stops

It's a good idea to remove any tab stops you aren't using so they don't get in the way. To remove a tab stop, click and drag it off of the Ruler.

Screenshot of Word 2013Removing a tab stop

Word can display hidden formatting symbols such as the spacebar (), paragraph (), and Tab key () markings to help you see the formatting in your document. To show hidden formatting symbols, select the Home tab, then click the Show/Hide command.

Screenshot of Word 2013Displaying hidden formatting symbols


  1. Open an existing Word document. If you want, you can use our practice document.
  2. Practice using the Tab key to indent some text. If you're using the example, try indenting the second and third paragraphs of the thank-you letter.
  3. Select a paragraph, and try creating a hanging indent.
  4. Select some text, and use the Increase Indent and Decrease Indent commands to see how they change the text. If you're using our example, practice increasing and decreasing the indent of the text in the Summary section of the resume.
  5. Explore the tab selector and tab stops. If you're using our example, select the text in the Experience section of the resume and add a left tab stop at 3 inches, then align each of the cities to the tab stop.