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.


I often copy your tips to Word 2010 and then also produce a PDF. Some other ZDNet and TR offerings are also posted as PDFs. Have you ever considered doing that too? Other people probably do similar to me. It would also mean that the document stays exactly as you wrote it as not too may people are able to edit PDFs. I love your tips. Keep them coming. Bob from OZ.


Simply create a sub-item, place your cursor in the line for the sub-item and follow the steps to create a custom bullet point as Ms Harkins explained. If you need more levels repeat the process at each level. You can even mix pictures and symbols as well as alpha-numeric. Once completed, the sub-item bullets will propagate through out the entire list. In other words, if you make a new bullet item in the list and create a new sub-item under it, it will show the new bullet points throughout. If you like it, you can use the format painter to create more lists.


I just write the content, TR manages the site. They're working their way through the different blogs to automate the printing process. Thank you for the kind words too -- always appreciate them. It's good to hear what folks like and find useful.


Thanks for expanding on the subject!

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