Customise numbered list alignment in Word

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I recently saw an issue arise on a discussion forum where a user submitted a question related to the alignment of a numbered list. The solution was a simple one but as the author commented, how would anyone not familiar with the “lingo” know how to find the solution without help?

Needless to say, this post is in response to that question and hopefully will provide some information for anyone who may experience the same issue.

The question in particular, related to why the alignment of text on certain lines of a numbered list was different to other lines. Here is an example showing a numbered list using Roman numerals:

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

 

You will see in this example that point I. has a small space between the number and the text, but point II. and III. is showing a large space between the numbering and the text for that point. This can happen when a numbered list has been modified multiple times and the settings are now causing issues; is inherited in an existing document created by someone else, or sometimes for no obvious reason at all.

It is useful to understand how the alignment of a numbered or bullet list works. The alignment is determined by markers on the ruler called indent markers. There are three indent markers available, however, only two of these apply to the alignment of your numbered or bullet lists.

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

The First Line Indent determines the location of the bullet or number at the start of each line in the list. E.g. A, B, C, i, ii, iii, 1, 2, 3.

The Hanging Indent marker (the triangle pointing up) determines where the text for the line will begin.

The Left Indent (the square underneath the Hanging Indent marker) only applies to formatting of paragraphs and is not utilised in a number or bullet list.

If you do not have the Ruler visible on the screen you will need to display this so you can see the indent markers on your ruler.

To display the ruler, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word
  2. Select the View tab from the Ribbon
  3. Place a tick in the Ruler checkbox within the Show group

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

  1. The Ruler will now be displayed on the screen

Now I will show you two methods to fix alignment issues with numbered lists.

Method 1: Change the Number Alignment

This first method will address an issue where the alignment of your text is directly affected by the alignment you have set your numbering. E.g. Left, Centered, or Right. In my example, I have used roman numerals which are set to left alignment. This means the numbers start at the left side of the margin and move to the right. When the numbering gets to II or III then the space between the edge of the numbering and the text becomes too small, the text alignment is then automatically adjusted to allow the numbers to fit correctly.

  1. Open Microsoft Word
  2. If you wish to open an existing document where this issue is being experienced press Alt + F12 on the keyboard. The Open dialog box will appear. Navigate/select the file you wish to open and click Open
  3. Alternatively, you can re-create the sample I have used above
  4. Place your cursor within the first line of the list, numbered I

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

  1. Right mouse click on the line and select Adjust List Indents OR click the Home tab and select the Multilevel List button, then choose Define New Multilevel List

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

  1. The Define New Multilevel List dialog box will appear

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

  1. Click the Number alignment drop down menu and change it to Right
  2. Click OK
  3. The alignment will now be fixed and all text will be aligned at the same point

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

Method 2: Change the Text Indent

Depending on how your numbered list is configured, the above method may fix the alignment issue, however, in other instances it may not. This is when it is necessary to adjust the actual position of the text within the list which is achieved by adjusting the indent markers.

  1. Place your cursor within the first line of the list, numbered I
  2. Right mouse click on the line and select Adjust List Indents OR click the Home tab and select the Multilevel List button, then choose Define New Multilevel List
  3. The Define New Multilevel List dialog box will appear

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

  1. Adjust the Text indent at field using the increase and decrease arrows on the right side of the field. It’s a good idea to note that the Aligned at setting determines which measurement on the ruler the number is aligned for each point
  2. Increase the Text indent at field to 1.5cm and click OK to see if this setting is sufficient

Using the Indent Markers

If you want to adjust the alignment using the indent markers shown on the ruler, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

  1. Firstly, when adjusting the alignment using the indent markers, the change will only apply to the item in the list you have selected or highlighted. If you place your cursor in point I and change the indent markers, the change will only apply to that point and you will need to repeat for the remaining items in the list. You can highlight multiple lines by holding down the Ctrl key when highlighting each line.
  2. Quite often when users give this one a try for the first time they find that instead of the text alignment moving, the entire numbered point and text all move, this happens because instead of clicking on the Hanging Indent marker (the triangle pointing up sitting on top of the square), users click on the square on the bottom which is the Left Indent marker and moves the entire alignment. So big tip: be sure you click on the Hanging Indent marker (triangle pointing up)

Customise numbered list alignment in Word

I hope this post helps with adjusting your numbered list text alignments. If you have any questions or need some assistance, feel free to contact me.

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3 Responses

  1. Is that the marker we use when we start a sentence I thing i seen

    that marker when a was talking and showing a film in Linda.

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