Lists allow you to organize information in an easy-to-read format in your Word documents. However, the default indent for bullets and numbers may not always suit your needs. Fortunately, Word provides several methods to customize list indents.
Why Adjust List Indents
Adjusting list indents enables you to:
- Set the position of bullets or numbers relative to the left page margin
- Control spacing between the bullet/number and the text
- Improve readability by aligning wrapped text
- Visually differentiate list levels in outlines
Carefully adjusted indents can greatly enhance the organization and aesthetic appeal of your numbered and bulleted lists.
Adjust Entire List
To modify indents for an entire bulleted or numbered list:
- Click any bullet or number in the list to select the whole list
- Right-click and select Adjust List Indents
- In the Adjust List Indents dialog box:
- Use the Bullet position and Text indent arrows to control indent positions
- Set spacing after bullets/numbers under Follow number with
- Click OK to apply changes
This will adjust indents uniformly for all list items.
- Item 1
- Sub-item 1
- Sub-item 2
- Item 2
In this example, the top-level bullets and first-line text have equal indent positions. Sub-item text is indented further to differentiate the levels visually.
Adjust Single Item
To change the indent or level of a single bullet or number:
- Click directly to the left of the item
- Select Change List Level on the Home tab
- Choose the desired indent level
This will override the list style for that specific item without affecting the rest.
1. Item 1
a. Sub-item 1
b. Sub-item 2
2. Item 2
Here, the sub-items are formatted as lowercase letters instead of numbers to set them apart.
Use the Ruler
The ruler provides a visual guide to adjust list indentation positions:
- First-line indent marker – Controls bullet/number position
- Left indent marker – Controls text position
Drag the markers to the desired positions in fractions of an inch.
1. _____Item 1
2. _____Sub-item 1
This shows the first-line indent adjusted further right to align wrapped text.
Define Custom List Style
For advanced lists, you can define a custom multilevel style with distinct formatting per level:
- Select the list
- Right-click and select Define New Multilevel List
- Format each level individually
- Click OK
Customizations for bullets and numbering include:
- Number format (numeral, letter, roman numeral)
- Number alignment
- Font type, size and color
- Indents and tab positions
- Spacing between bullet/number and text
I. Level 1
A. Level 2
1. Level 3
This multilevel list uses different numbering formats to better visually distinguish hierarchy levels.
- Increase indent: Tab
- Decrease indent: Shift + Tab
- Start new list item: Enter
Use these handy keyboard shortcuts to quickly adjust indentation levels as you build your lists.
- Be consistent with indentation widths between different levels
- Use different numbering formats or bullets to differentiate complex list levels
- Balance overall indentation positions relative to page margins
- Preview changes before applying to avoid unintended formatting issues
Carefully adjusted list indentation enables you to build well-organized, easy-to-follow outlines, task lists and other bulleted/numbered lists in Word.