How to Create a Hanging Indent in Microsoft Word and Google Docs

320087 How to Create a Hanging Indent in Microsoft Word and Google Docs

A hanging indent is an indentation of all lines in a paragraph except the first line. Hanging indents are commonly used to format bibliographies, references pages, outlines, etc. to help visually differentiate between entries.

In this article, we will walk through how to easily create hanging indents in both Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

Why Use Hanging Indents

  • Improves readability and scannability of content
  • Clearly separates individual entries
  • Creates visual hierarchy on the page

Using hanging indents for bibliographies, references pages, glossaries, outlines, etc. makes it much easier for readers to navigate and digest the information.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Microsoft Word

Follow these simple steps to create a hanging indent in Microsoft Word:

Method 1: Using the “Paragraph” Dialog Box

  1. Highlight the text you want to apply the hanging indent to
  2. Go to the “Home” tab
  3. Click the small arrow in the bottom-right corner of the “Paragraph” section
  4. In the “Indentation” section, click the drop-down menu next to “Special” and select “Hanging”
  5. Set the indentation amount in the “By” input field (typically 0.5 inches)
  6. Click “OK”

The selected text will now have a hanging indent applied.

Method 2: Using the Ruler

  1. Ensure the ruler is visible by going to “View” > “Show” > “Ruler”
  2. Highlight the text to apply the hanging indent to
  3. On the ruler, drag the top triangular “First Line Indent” marker to set position of the first line
  4. Drag the bottom triangular “Hanging Indent” marker to set indentation of subsequent lines
  5. Set first line at 0 inches and hanging indent at 0.5 inches

This will create a 0.5 inch hanging indent.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Google Docs

Here is how to create hanging indents in Google Docs:

  1. Highlight the text you want to apply the indent to
  2. Click “Format” > “Align & Indent” > “Indentation Options”
  3. Under “Special”, select “Hanging” from the drop-down menu
  4. Set the “By” input field to your desired indent (typically 0.5 inches)
  5. Click “Apply”

The selected text will now have a hanging indent applied in Google Docs.

Formatting Tips

  • For references/bibliographies, apply hanging indent and double space the entries
  • For multi-level outlines, use different indent amounts to differentiate levels
  • Use consistent indent amounts throughout for visual consistency

Hanging Indent Examples

Here are examples of hanging indents commonly used:

APA References Page


Smith, J. (2020). Academic writing in APA format. Journal of Higher Education, 35(2), 201-258.

Johansson, B. (2018). The effect of hanging indents on reader comprehension. Research in Formatting, 22(3), 110-145. 

MLA Works Cited

Works Cited

Chopra, Deepak, and Kimberly Snyder. What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Wellness, and Lightness of Soul. Harmony Books, 2022.

Godin, Seth. The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. Portfolio/Penguin, 2021.

Outline Format

   Thesis statement
   Main points
   Main point 1
      Supporting detail 1
      Supporting detail 2
   Main point 2
   Restate thesis
   Call to action

Troubleshooting Hanging Indents

If your hanging indent is not displaying properly, check the following:

  • The paragraph/text is properly highlighted
  • Only the “Special” indent is applied (not left, right, or first-line indent too)
  • The “By” indent amount is set between 0.25-0.5 inches
  • The first line indent marker is at 0 inches (for ruler method)

This should resolve any issues with hanging indents not displaying correctly.


Adding hanging indents to your Word documents and Google Docs can greatly improve the readability and polish of your work. Use them for bibliographies, outlines, glossaries, references pages, and any other section that needs clear visual separation.

Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs make it quick and simple to create consistent hanging indents every time. Just remember to highlight the text first, access the “Paragraph” or “Indentation Options” menus, set the “Special” indent to “Hanging”, input your desired indent amount, and click apply!

About The Author