Set [Tab] to correctly indent your paragraph in Word

Sometimes the [Tab] key in Word works a little too efficiently, indenting sections and paragraphs you don't want moved. Mary Ann Richardson guides you through the pitfalls -- and benefits -- of [Tab].

After typing a paragraph in your Word document, you want to indent the first line one inch from the margin, so you press [Tab] and click at the start of the first line. The first line indents to the first default tab setting — one half inch from the left margin. You need to indent the paragraph one full inch from the margin, so you press [Tab] again. Word indents the first line one inch and indents the entire paragraph one half inch from the margin. How can you prevent Word from moving the entire paragraph?

If you have Word 2003 or Word 2007, a Smart Tag will appear after you press [Tab] the second time, allowing you to turn off the AutoCorrect option that prevents [Tab] from working as expected. Just click the Smart Tag's drop-down arrow and select Undo Left Indent. Alternately, if you want to suspend the feature altogether, select Stop Setting Indent On Tabs And Backspace; once selected, pressing [Tab] at the beginning of the first line will indent the first line only.

With Word 2002 (or if Smart Tags have been turned off), you will need to go into the AutoCorrect dialog box and clear the Set Left- And First Indent With Tabs And Backspaces check box under the AutoFormat As You Type tab.

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