How to pull a paragraph in Word into the left margin

It's easier than you might think to pull text into the left margin. Doing so is as simple as setting a format option, but in an unusual way.

Most text is flush with the left margin or indented to the right a bit. You can indent just the first line of a paragraph or indent all but the first line (that's called a hanging indent). What you might not realize is that a paragraph's left indent can extend into a document's left margin-that's not a common request, but it's easy to do.

Normally, a paragraph's left indention setting is 0 or a positive number. The value 0 aligns the paragraph with the left margin, and a positive setting moves the text to the right of the left margin. It stands to reason that a negative value would move the text to the left of the left margin-and that's exactly how you accomplish this unusual layout request. For example, a left indentation of -.40 creates an interesting visual effect for this timeline of events.

To assign this paragraph setting, do the following (you can use any paragraph of text):

  1. Click inside the paragraph you want to format. If working with a list of items or several paragraphs, select the entire list or all of the paragraphs.
  2. On the Home tab, click the Paragraph group's dialog launcher (the small arrow in the bottom-right corner). In Word 2003, choose Paragraph from the Format menu.
  3. In the Left option in the Indention section, enter -.40. Negative values are valid settings.
  4. Click OK.

Dragging text into the left margin helps set it off a bit, but it's a technique that will have limited uses and appeal, so save it for those documents that will truly benefit from it. You can do the same thing with the right margin, although your opportunities for doing so will be even more limited.


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.


and drag the first line indent slider to the left.