How to create a hanging indent in MS Word

Citing of sources is a must in most, if not all, reading materials. Various citation styles require hanging indents to format your list of sources.

This is a common format commonly found in bibliographies, reference lists, and cited works.

Here is how a Hanging Indent looks like:

A hanging indent is basically the opposite of what we usually see in common paragraph indentations, where the first line is indented.

When hanging indentation is used, the first line is not indented while the rest of the paragraph is.

Formatting each line of your citation with hanging indents makes it easier to be distinguished from the others.

It also allows your readers to quickly spot the citation details like the author names, publication dates, and place, pages, etc.  

Now, there are about three ways to create a hanging indent in MS Word. 

3 Ways to Create a Hanging Indent in MS Word

  • Using the Ribbon
  • Using the Context Menu
  • Using the Ruler

Having said that, let’s get started! 

Method 1: Using the Ribbon

Step 1: Open up an MS Word document. 

Step 2: Select the text. 

Carefully select the text or citations that you need to format. Note that you can create hanging indents over multiple lines of citations spanning over several pages.

Step 3: Go to the Paragraph group in the Home tab.

In the middle of the Ribbon, select the arrow icon at the bottom-right corner of the Paragraph group. This will launch the Paragraph dialogue box in the middle of your screen. 

Step 4: Create the Hanging Indent.

Once the Paragraph dialogue box has appeared, go to the Indentation section and click the Special: drop-down menu.

Then select Hanging from the options. 

Also, you can specify the length of the indent by typing a number in the By: field. Note that, by default, this is in inches.

Click the OK button once you’re finished. Otherwise, click the Cancel button if you want to revert any changes. 

Method 2: Using the Context Menu 

Step 1: Open up an MS Word document

Step 2: Right-click on the text.

Right-click on any part of the paragraph where you want a hanging indent applied. Notice that you did not have to select the whole paragraph in this step. 

Now, select Paragraph on the list of options. The Paragraph dialogue box will pop-up in the middle of your screen.  

The steps are the same as the previous method from here on out. Simply select the measurements that you’d like the hanging indent to use and fill in the necessary options. 

Method 3: Using the Ruler

In this method, we will guide you through the steps to create a hanging indent using the ruler. First off, we need to make sure the ruler is visible

By default, the ruler should be visible when you open a Word document. Otherwise, you can show the ruler by going to the View tab and ticking the Ruler checkbox. 

Now that it is out of the way, let’s start using the ruler to create a hanging indent. 

Step 1: Open up an MS Word document

Step 2: Select the text.

Select the text that you need to format. You can select multiple lines of citations spanning over several pages at once.

Step 3: Move the Ruler

Move your cursor to the left part of the ruler. Move the lower slider of the ruler to the right until the first vertical tick (0.5”). You can modify this by simply moving the slider to a specific measurement. 

Tip: When using the ruler, MS Word automatically detects a paragraph. This means you did not really have to highlight the paragraph. Instead, simply click on any part of it. We did so in this example, however, as we had multiple citations. 

Deleting Hanging Indents in MS Word

3 methods to delete your hanging indents. 

Using the Paragraph dialogue box

Follow the steps in the first two methods to launch the Paragraph dialogue box. Once it’s displayed, simply expand the Special: drop-down menu and select (none). Click the Ok button to confirm.   

Using the Ruler

To easily delete hanging indents using the ruler, simply select the text and move the lower slider back to the white leftmost part of the ruler. 


Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, hopefully, we’ve helped you figure out how to create a hanging indent in MS Word.

Using Google Docs? Then check out this guide for creating hanging indent using google docs.

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