How to Indent on Google Docs

Learn how to do a hanging indent in Google Docs, too

If you know how to indent on Google Docs using the built-in indentation options or the ruler tool, you can control exactly how far away from the margins you want the first line of each paragraph to be. It's also possible to set up hanging indents in Google Docs.

Instructions in this article apply to the web version of Google Docs. The steps are the same for all web browsers and operating systems.

How to Indent in Google Docs

While you can indent in Google Docs using the Tab key, you can set up custom indents for a paragraph by doing the following:

  1. In a Google Docs document, highlight the paragraph you want to indent.

    Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A or Command+A to highlight all text in the document.

  2. Select Format > Align & Indent > Indentation options.

    The location of Indention Options in Google Docs.
  3. Select First Line under Special indent.

    The Indention Options dialog box in Google Docs.
  4. Set a custom value for the indent if you wish and select Apply.

    Set a custom value for the indent if you wish and select Apply.

    The default indent of 0.5 inches is the standard for most style guides (MLA, APA, etc.).

When to Indent in Google Docs

For most academic writing, it is standard practice to indent the first line of each new paragraph. News articles and blogs typically do not use first-line indents; however, you should still know how to control the indentation settings in case you want to specially format a paragraph. If you need to format a references page using MLA format on Google Docs, then you should also know how to create a hanging indent.

How to Indent the Second Line in Google Docs

A hanging indent is when the first line is not indented, but each line after the first is indented. To set up a hanging indent in Google Docs:

  1. Highlight the text you want to format and select Format > Align & Indent > Indentation options.

    The location of Indention Options in Google Docs.
  2. Select Hanging under Special indent.

    The Hanging Indent options in Google Docs.
  3. When you're finished making your adjustment select Apply to apply the indent and return to the document.

How to Indent in Google Docs Using the Ruler

Another way to set up custom indents in Google Docs is to use the ruler tool. The ruler has two blue sliders on the left side that are stacked together. The blue rectangle on top controls the First Line Indent, and the blue triangle below controls the Left Indent, or the indent for the rest of the paragraph.

To indent text using the ruler in Google Docs:

  1. With a Google Docs document open, if you don't see the ruler at the very top of the page, select View > Show Ruler.

    How to show the ruler in Google Docs.

    The ruler tool is not available in the Google Docs mobile apps.

  2. Highlight the paragraph you want to indent.

  3. Drag the First Line Indent slider to the right. It's the small blue, horizontal line on the left side of the ruler, where the rule changes from gray to white. When you grasp the line, the measurement will appear in a black box above it as you move the slider.

    A vertical line will appear to help you adjust the text to your liking.

    The location of the First Line Indenter in Google Docs.

    If you hover the mouse just above the First Line Indent slider, the cursor will change to double-arrows, and you can adjust the Left Margin.

  4. If you want to indent all of the selected lines, drag the Left Indent slider to the right. It's the blue, downward arrow below the First Line Indent slider. Again, a black measurement reading will appear when you start moving the slider.

    The left indent slider in Google Docs.
  5. To create a hanging indent using the ruler, drag the Left Indent slider to the right, then drag the First Line Indent slider back to the left.

    The location of the First Line Indent and the Left Indent sliders in a hanging indent on Google Docs.
  6. Alternatively, you can select Increase Indent or Decrease Indent in the toolbar.

    The increase and decrease indent options in Google Docs.