How to customize Word bullet points

Word's default bullet character is adequate, but you can add a bit of distinction or creativity by using custom bullet characters.

Is easy to create a bulleted list in Word. Select the list and click Bullets in the Paragraph group. It couldn't be simpler. The default bullet character is generic enough to be adequate for most documents, but you might want something more distinct or artistic. When this is the case, simply change the bullet character for a specific list.

First, you'd enter the list and format it as you normally would:

  1. Enter the list items, pressing Enter between each one.
  2. Select the entire list.
  3. Click Bullets in the Paragraph group.

With the bulleted list intact, you're ready to customize the bullet character, as follows:

  1. Right-click anywhere inside the list.
  2. From the resulting submenu, highlight Bullets, and then choose Define New Bullets. In Word 2003, choose Bullets and Numbering.
  3. In the resulting dialog, you can choose three routes for customizing the bullet character: Symbol, Picture, and Font.
  4. To insert a symbol, click Symbol.
  5. In the resulting dialog, choose an appropriate font and symbol character. For instance, change the Font to Wingdings and then select the diamond.
  6. Click OK twice.

This route works well, to a point. Notice that it doesn't update the sub-items. There's not much you can do about that, so you'll probably want to limit this technique to simple lists - those without sub-items.

Clicking Picture provides access to a number of clip art characters, but you can also import a picture file using this route. Simply click Import and select the picture file. The results won't always be useable, but don't be afraid to experiment. Clicking Font lets you change only the bullet character's font.

It's easy to customize a bullet point. Doing so can often produce a more professional or creative document.


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.

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