How To Use The Ruler And Showing Paragraph Marks In Word

Although some people use the space bar to format their documents, things rarely line up correctly.

Whilst this may be okay for informal documents, if you are creating professional documents like reports and brochures, you will want to make sure that your formatting is spot on.

The best way to format your documents and ensure preciseness is to use the ruler in Word. It will save you countless time and make your documents much easier to edit.

If you want to become an expert in Word and Microsoft Office or just simply expand your toolset slightly, view our course offerings for every level of experience.


Viewing the ruler

To see the ruler while in Print Layout View.

  • Go to the View Tab
  • Check the box for “Ruler” in the Show group

Shows where to enable the ruler tool


The horizontal ruler will then appear at the top of your document and the vertical ruler will appear down the left hand side. You can then use this ruler tool to format your work.

Shows the enabled ruler tool

If you want to streamline your work process and stop copying over data, view our guide on connecting Word with data sources using Mail Merge.


Changing Document Margins

Now your rulers are showing, you can get to work on changing your document margins.

To alter your left margin:

  • Move your mouse curser between the two triangles on the horizontal ruler (separating the blue and the white sections)
  • Your cursor will change to a double-headed arrow
  • Simply drag left or right to change the document’s left margin
  • Release the mouse button to set the margin in place and your text will move accordingly

To alter your right margin:

  • Move your mouse curser onto the right triangle of the horizontal ruler
  • The double-headed arrow will appear
  • Drag and release to change the right margin

To alter the top margin:

  • Move your mouse onto the top of the vertical ruler (between the blue and white sections)
  • The cursor will change to a double-arrow
  • Drag up or down and release to change the top margin

To alter the bottom margin

  • Move your mouse onto the bottom of the vertical ruler (between the blue and white sections)
  • The cursor will change to a double-arrow
  • Drag up or down and release to change the bottom margin


 How To Set Tabs

 If you want to set tabs in your Word document you will need to:

  • Go to the Home Tab
  • Click the small popout button in the Paragraph section

Shows where to get the tabs dialog box


  • In the Paragraph dialog box, click tabs. Here you can mess with indentations exact details. You can also find these options in the Layout tab in the Paragraph group!

Shows the paragraph dialog box and how to get to the tabs


  • Finally the Tabs dialog box opens up. Here you can see the current Tab stops position, and change their values precisely using the Default tab stops button. You can decide on alignments and leading characters too.


Shows the tabs dialog box


Interested in streamlining your work in Word? Read our step-by-step guide on how and when to use Building Blocks in word.


Showing Paragraph Marks

Paragraph marks are also referred to as paragraph indents in Word. Microsoft Word can create three types of paragraph marks.

  1. A normal indent (where the paragraph is indented on both sides)
  2. A first line indent (where the first line is moved inwards). First line indents are typically used in content such as news articles and books.
  3. A hanging indent (where the first line is flush to the left and the rest of the paragraph appears under the first line). A hanging indent is often used for features such as references or a bibliography in a research paper.

Shows how to use the ruler to create indents

The grey points in the ruler you can see are known as the page margins.

Work provides great indent markers for you to easily play with, both left and right. To do this you can:

  • Click at the beginning of the paragraph you want to indent
  • Move your mouse cursor to the two triangles on the left of the horizontal ruler. These are indent markers.
  • The top triangle represents the first line indent marker. It is known as the left indent marker.
  • The bottom triangle will represent the left indent of your paragraph
  • Move the triangles together to create a normal indent
  • Drag the bottom triangle to make a first line indent
  • Drag the top triangle to the left to create hanging indent

You can also play around with a right indent. You can create right side indents by clicking the right indent marker. This is highlighted in the screenshot.

Have a play around and see which paragraph mark looks best for your document.

Could you do with a little extra help in the formatting department for other software? We offer comprehensive guides, such as this article that covers text formatting in Excel in greater detail.



About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.