Microsoft

Two ways to undo Word's automatic list indent

Want a numbered list but no automatic indents? Learn two ways to work around Word's automatic list indent.

When you use Word's Bullets or Numbering options, you often get a surprise - an indent you might not want. I'm going to show you two ways to undo that indent: a quick but temporary fix for the list at hand and a semi-permanent fix for all of the document's lists.

Quick fix

The figure below shows a simple numbered list. The text boundaries make the indent applied by the Numbering option easy to see. Specifically, I entered the list, highlighted the list, and then clicked Numbering.

Now, here's the quick fix if you don't want the indent: with the entire list (still) selected, click the Decrease option in the Paragraph group. Doing so will quickly align all of the list items with the left margin. This quick fix works with the current list only. If you add to this list, Word will remember the indent. When you start a new list later in the document, it won't.

More permanent fix

If you know that you won't want any (or most) or your lists indented, there's a more permanent fix:

  1. After creating an indented list, double-click any number in the list to select all of the numbers in the list.
  2. Right-click the selection and choose Adjust List Indents.
  3. In the resulting dialog, set Number Position to 0. This is the position where you want to align the numbers.
  4. Set Text Indent to .25. This setting denotes the position where you want the text to align.
  5. Click OK.

With these settings, all subsequent lists in your document will default to the left margin (0). This semi-permanent fix works only for the document at hand, but it's an efficient change when you want the default listings to be the same for most (or all) of the document.

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.

12 comments
gansell
gansell

Thanks Susan , keep the great tips coming.

spiras
spiras

For some reason Word doesn't remember the previous indent settings I entered manually when I create a new list in the same document.

noeldi
noeldi

Just - as always when word does some auto formating/changes you do not like - press [Ctrl]+[Z]. Small drawback here: not only the indent goes away, also the format/style of the text will be changed back from e.g. "list" to "normal". But helpful if you do not want a list at all, e.g. if you are starting a line with 1., a) or - .

izharaazmi
izharaazmi

Authors at TechRepublic are known to deliver wonderful tips that [b]most[/b] people overlook. However this was too small at that level. I do not say that its not helpful at all. But if said, I'd like to add the 3rd level - The permanent fix. [ol] [*] Temporary (main article) [*] Semi-permanent (main article) [*] Full-permanent: (saying briefly below) [ul] [*] [i]Search MS-Word Help ([b]F1[/b]) for [b]Change the Normal.dotm template[/b][/i] [*] [i]Make similar steps to semi-permanent fix and update the Normal.dotm template[/b][/i] [/ul] [/ol]

blarman
blarman

Is there a way to just shut off ALL autoformatting - paragraph indents, lists, etc. I find that Microsoft's penchant for being micromanagingly "helpful" is more a pain than it is useful...

CharlesG1970
CharlesG1970

thanks but where is the permenant fix How do I set my default to 0/.25???

ssharkins
ssharkins

It's certainly worth mention -- if you can live with the whole set of consequences, it's an easy and obvious choice!

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

If you want to shut off all formatting, CLICK START and type the following in the search/run box. 'NOTEPAD'

dickeassom
dickeassom

Go to File > Options > Proofing. Click Autocorrect Options. Select AutoFormat As You Type tab in AutoCorrect dialog. Uncheck Automatic numbered lists, etc.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Open Word, then open the file Normal.dot. Perform the steps for the semi-permanent fix, then save the file. At least, that's how how I remember it working in Word 6, 95, 97, 2000, XP, 2003, and 2007.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Just be very careful that this is really what you want to do -- disabling a feature often has repercussions that aren't apparent.

ssharkins
ssharkins

You can create a permanent fix by modifying your template as NickNielsen suggests.