How to Create a Hanging Indent in Word

Get the formatting right for references, works cited, and bibliographies

Text configured with a hanging indent

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You're probably familiar with the practice of indenting the first line of a paragraph within text. It's a common style for fiction and academic papers. The opposite, outdenting, is common with bibliographical references and other citations. It's also the default setting for bulleted or numbered lists. In this article, we describe how to create a hanging indent correctly.

This article applies to Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word for Office 365.

Set Up a Hanging Indent

Here are the basic steps for setting up a hanging indent.

  1. Open your document. Select the paragraph you want to have the hanging indent. On the ribbon, select Home. In the Paragraph group, select the dialog box launcher.

    MS Word with one paragraph selected and the Paragraph dialog launcher command highlighted
  2. In the Paragraph dialog box, select the Indents and Spacing tab.

    MS Word with Paragraph dialog box displayed
  3. In the Indentation section, select the Special dropdown menu and choose Hanging. Under By, enter a positive value using quarter-inch increments.

    MS Word with Paragraph dialog box displayed
  4. The Preview section at the bottom of the dialog box shows how your text will look.

  5. Select OK. The paragraph you selected now has a hanging indent. If you place your cursor at the end of the paragraph and press Enter on your keyboard, the new paragraph has a hanging indent as well.

    MS Word showing two paragraphs with hanging indents
  6. Alternatively, you can set a hanging indent using the ruler just under the ribbon. If you don't see it, on the ribbon select View. In the Show group, select Ruler.

    MS Word with View tab displayed
  7. Select the paragraph you want to have the hanging indent. Move the bottom (up-arrow) slider on the ruler to shift the text in the second row and below.

    MS Word with one paragraph showing a hanging indent

Use a Hanging Indent for References, Works Cited, or Bibliography List

The correct formatting for references, works cited, and bibliographies involves the use of a hanging indent. Here's how to create it.

  1. Open your list. Highlight one or more entries that you would like to have a hanging indent.

    MS Word with Works Cited list in document
  2. Right-click. From the menu, select Paragraph.

    MS Word with formatting menu displayed
  3. In the Paragraph dialog box, in the Indentation section, select the Special dropdown menu and select Hanging. Under By, select a positive number in quarter-inch increments. Select OK.

    MS Word with Paragraph dialog box displayed
  4. The entries you selected reflect the hanging indentation.

    MS Word with Works Cited document using hanging indentation

Apply Hanging Indent to a Style

A style is a collection of formatting properties, such as bold, italics, double spacing, color, size, etc. You can add a hanging indent to a style, which you can later use instead of going through the process above each time you want to create a hanging indent. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open your document. On the ribbon, select Home. In the Styles group, right-click the Normal style.

    MS Word with Normal style selected
  2. From the menu, choose Modify.

  3. In the Modify Style dialog box, in the bottom-left corner, select the Format dropdown menu and choose Paragraph.

    MS Word with the Modify Style dialog box displayed
  4. In the Paragraph dialog box, perform steps 2-5 under Set Up a Hanging Indent, above.

    MS Word with Paragraph dialog box displayed
  5. In the Modify Style dialog box, select OK. The hanging indent is applied to all text that uses the selected style.

    MS Word with all paragraphs using a hanging indent