The most common form of indent is to push in the first line of a paragraph. Position the text-entry cursor in front of the first word in the paragraph and then, in Word 2003 open the Format menu and choose Paragraph. When the dialogue box appears, find the Indentation section, open the dropdown menu underneath Special and choose First Line. Click OK. In 2007/2010, make sure the Home tab is selected, then click the Paragraph dialogue box launcher (it’s at the bottom right of the Paragraph panel on the Ribbon). Choose First Line from the Special dropdown menu.
Another common way to use indents in a paragraph is to push both sides in from the margins; this is much more effective than centring the paragraph. Open the same Paragraph dialogue box, find the Indentation section again and this time use the spin boxes next to the Left and Right settings to change the indents from 0 to 1, then click OK. We’ve done that, then opened the dialogue box again to show the settings and the effect. This is great for long quotes – add quote marks and make the text italic to finish off. Our version of Word is set to use inches as the measurement units; to change this, select Options from the Tools menu and choose the desired unit from the dropdown menu at the foot of the General tab.
The second kind of indent is called a ‘hanging indent’ and is most useful when compiling citations or bibliographies, where the convention is to have the first line full width and subsequent lines in the paragraph indented. Because citations tend to be shorter, there may only be two or three lines in each paragraph, but using a hanging indent will ensure they’re formatted correctly. Type the citation, then open the Paragraph dialogue again and this time choose Hanging Indent from the Special dropdown menu.
Word also lets you control indents directly via the ruler at the top of the page. If you’re using Word 2007/2010 and can’t see it, click the View tab, then put a tick in the Ruler box on the ribbon. On the right at the top there’s a little triangular slider that controls the right indent; on the left there are three sliders (two triangular ones and one square). Hover the mouse pointer over each and a tooltip appears indicting that (from top to bottom) they control the First Line Indent, Hanging Indent and Left Indent.
Indents work inside margins. To change a margin setting in Word 2003, open the File menu and choose Page Setup. When the dialogue box opens, use the spin boxes to change the size of each margin as required; Word’s default settings are usually fine but there may be situations where a document requires smaller margins and less gutter (this is the amount of space added to the margin for binding). Once done, click OK and the changes will apply to the entire document.
Word 2007/2010 users have slightly different margin options. Click the Page Layout tab at the top and then click the Margins button in the ribbon. This reveals five alternative margin-layout styles with all the settings already defined. If none suits, choose Custom Margins from the bottom of the same menu – this opens the same dialogue box seen in the previous step. Change the margin sizes in the same way and click OK when you’re done.