I use Word’s automated lists features a lot. Almost everything I write has at least one bulleted or numbered list. It’s an easy choice because most of the list defaults are adequate. However, you only have to create one long list to run into a perplexing problem — Word aligns list numbers to the left and typically, we align them to the right. You won’t notice it until a list hits double digits.

If you try to align the numbers using Word’s alignment tools on the Formatting toolbar, you get a mess. That tool aligns the entire list, not just the numbers.

Fortunately, Word lets you control the alignment for just the numbers — but the option’s not easy to find. To change the alignment of the numbers in a numbered list, do the following:

  1. Create the numbered list.
  2. Select the list items you want to realign (usually, that means the entire list, but Word applies this format only to the selected items).
  3. From the Format menu, select Bullets And Numbering. Or right-click the selection and choose Bullets And Numbering from the resulting context menu.
  4. Click the Numbered tab (if necessary; it’s the default) and click the Customize button in the bottom-right corner.
  5. From the Number Position drop-down list, select Right.
  6. Click OK.

If you’re using Word 2007, do the following:

  1. Create the numbered list.
  2. Select the list items you want to realign.
  3. You’ll find the Numbering tool in the Paragraph group on the Home tab. Click the Numbering tool’s drop-down list and choose Define New Number Format.
  4. In the resulting dialog box, choose Right from the Alignment drop-down list.
  5. Click OK.

Applying the Right alignment shifts the numbers to the left just a bit. If you select a partial list of items, say, only the double-digit numbers, the numbers still won’t line up. Usually, you’ll want to apply the same alignment format to the entire list.

Word 2007’s feature does offer an improvement over previous versions: You can create the list and change the alignment and other formatting options at the same time.