Software

Don't use Tab to indent paragraphs in a Word document

Using Tab to indent the first line of a paragraph in a Word document is inefficient and unnecessary. By setting a simple option, you can skip Tab and go right to typing text.

Most of the time, I press Tab to indent the first line of a new paragraph. It's easy and I seldom write anything that requires more than just a few paragraphs. However, using Tab does introduce the potential for trouble. For example, if you combine two paragraphs, you have to delete the Tab at the beginning of the second paragraph. It's not a big deal in a short document, but those tabs can add up if you do some serious restructuring.

The truth is, Tab just isn't necessary. Instead, use Word's indent feature as follows:

  1. From the Format menu, choose Paragraph.
  2. Click the Indents And Spacing tab.
  3. In the Indention section, select First Line from the Special control's drop-down list.
  4. Specify the size of the indention using the By control's drop-down list. Then, click OK to return to your document.

january20009blog4fig1.jpgWhen you press Enter, Word assumes you're starting a new paragraph and automatically indents the first line. You don't have to press a thing. If you need to remove an indent for a single paragraph, just move the First Line Indent marker on the ruler for that paragraph.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

100 comments
Bob Fast
Bob Fast

If you were asked to write a legal or 'official' document surely there's a **standard indent**, like 10mm or something? What is it, anyone? or, like this website directly insists, it's just random. It's willy nilly. It's different every time.

gwyn909
gwyn909

I try not to use MS Word for anything. I like to be in control of what I am doing not what MS tells me I have to do. I much rather use Wordperfect although I bought MS Office 2007. I do all my formatting in Wordperfect or Open Office and then if I have to send the document out I copy it into MS Word, save it in 2003 format.

robbie
robbie

Excellent help for a BIG problem I've been wrangling with for some time. THANKS!

laura.walker
laura.walker

Microsoft's paragraph marker (the backward P) holds all tab information for a paragraph. If you wish another tabbing style simply copy+paste (from a desired tabbing style paragraph marker) over another tabbing style paragraph marker - done. lrw

fisico
fisico

Excelente TIP para trabajar, muchas gracias.

simon.freeman
simon.freeman

I am afraid I prefer to insert tabs manually, but what I hate is when you hit Tab and Word doesn't insert a tab but indents the paragraph. I'd love to know how to stop this. Anyone know.

daileyml
daileyml

Have we really become so dependent upon technology--read 'lazy'--that we need to set an option to save us from the horrible burden of pressing the Tab key? I understand the authors intent and applaud the useful information, but have we really gotten to the point where we are this lazy? Really? Seriously? -Mike D http://www.daileymuse.com

jdclyde
jdclyde

I have seen people use SPACES to indent. And the cardinal sin, people that MANUALLY end their lines instead of using word wrap. :0 You do something as simple as change font size and the whole document is pooched.

DAKSPORT99
DAKSPORT99

"For example, if you combine two paragraphs, you have to delete the Tab at the beginning of the second paragraph. It?s not a big deal in a short document, but those tabs can add up if you do some serious restructuring.The truth is, Tab just isn?t necessary. Instead, use Word?s indent feature as follows:" No space between "restructuring.The"

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