Word Formatting 2

Today’s Geek School lesson in this Word Formatting series will help you finally understand how to format your paragraphs and make them look the way you want, and create bulleted or numbered lists with confidence.

Yesterday, we spent the first lesson discussing Word’s Ribbon, page layout, and how to set up various page marks like tabs and margins. We also showed you what the deal is between typefaces and fonts, as well as how to change fonts, i.e. the way they appear in your documents. Then we wrapped it up with a brief discussion of templates.

Today, we’re going to stay in the same area of documenting formatting, namely the “Home” tab, but move over to the “Paragraph” section, so we can cover how to play around with the way type appears and behaves on the page. We’ll also briefly discuss shading and borders but the primary focus of the end of Lesson 2 will be lists: bulleted, numbered, and multilevel.


We’ll first spend some time discussing paragraph controls, such as justification, line spacing, and we’ll conclude the lesson with how to control and format various list and list styles in Word 2013.

You can control paragraph behavior and appearance using the “Paragraph” tab. This tab has several notable features including increase/decrease indent, line spacing, borders, and more. There are many more options than are first apparent. To access that click on the icon at the bottom corner of the paragraph tab.

The “Paragraph” dialog will give you further, more fine-grained control. You can affect indenting, line spacing, as well as line and page breaks.


Alignment, also known as justification, determines how the documents text aligns with margins.

Left — line up the text or an image along the left margin. The right-hand side of the paragraph is free to float.

Center — When you center-justify, it means that the entire block of text will be aligned to the center, between the margins.

Right — line up the text on the right hand side (or move the graphic to the right margin).

Full — this means the left and right-hand sides of the paragraph and lined up. Word does this by adjusting spacing between words. This can often lead to awkward looking paragraphs with large holes in middle when working in narrow spaces.

In most cases, you will use left-justification for almost everything you write. Center is, of course, useful for centering titles and headlines. Full-justification is typically used in newspapers and many printed books because it creates nice square blocks of text.


We covered indents in the first lesson so you already know how to create a hanging indent if you want to affect the first line of a paragraph, but what if you want to indent an entire block of text. The increase and decrease indent buttons allow you to affect changes to a whole paragraph, such as if you want to block off a quote.

Alternatively, you can select the entire block of text you want to affect and tab until you have it where you want it.

Line Spacing

“Line spacing” is used to set the horizontal spacing between lines.

Here you can see the results of various line spacing schemes, note you’re probably never going to want to space your line more than two, unless you want to produce really long documents!

You can tweak line spacing using the options:

· “Exactly” indicate line spacing in points. A point is the smallest unit of measurement for lines or fonts.

· “Multiple” lets you pick a number greater than double or something in between. You can also set line spacing using the menu option.

Shading and Borders

You should have no trouble getting the hang of shadows and borders, but for the sake of simplicity, check out the following screenshot for a quick run-down on the difference between shadowing text and highlighting it.

Borders, on the other hand, might be a little tricky. There’s a whole trick to borders that can at first seem a little frustrating. The borders button gives you some rudimentary control over how borders appear, but you really need to dig into the “Borders and Shading” dialog to get the full appreciation for what you can do.

First, there are two tabs for borders, the one we’re immediately concerned with is the first one, simple titled “Borders.” Let’s say you have a block of text and you want to draw a 1-point border around the whole thing, while having a ½-point dotted border between line breaks.

How is this accomplished? Normally you could simply select the border option from the dropdown menu on the “Paragraph” section.

However, you still need to add dashed lines. For that kind of overall control, you need to open up the “Borders and Shading” dialog and apply the style you want.

Once you choose a border style, simply click on each part of the “Preview” you want to affect. In the above screenshot, note how the outside border is a solid line, but between lines we were able to add our dashed line.

You probably won’t spend your days and nights formatting your documents with borders and shading, but for those times you do, it’s nice to know exactly what you want, and how to go about accomplishing it.


Lists! Lists! Lists! One of the things you will do a lot in Microsoft Word 2013 is create lists. Lists are crucial to organizing text whether it be an unordered list using bullets, or an ordered numbered list, or even a multilevel list, such as what you’d end up with an outline.

Lists can be affected using the lists functions on the “Paragraph” section.

A Quick Note on AutoCorrect

Word will also automatically start a list for you if it thinks it detects that you’re trying to create one.

For example, let’s say you type something “1. Don’t Mess with Texas!” and then you hit “return.” Word will automatically indent that statement as soon as you press the space button after the “1.”

  1. Don’t Mess with Texas!
  2. We have the best BBQ!

When you hit return, it will automatically indent the line and number it (2., 3., 4., etc.).

Some people might find this behavior annoying and may simply want to create lists using the provided buttons. In such a case, you can turn off automatic lists in the options. Go to the “Options” on the “File” tab and choose “Proofing.”

Then click “AutoCorrect Options” and choose the “AutoFormat as You Go.” You can see that there’s a number of different stuff you can disable. In this case, you can turn off number lists and/or bulleted ones.

While you’re in the “AutoCorrect” options, you’d be well to check out the “AutoFormat” options. Feel free to turn stuff off if it bugs you.

As you use Word, you’re going to find it does a lot of things for you, like changing 1/2 to ½ automatically, or changing — (two hyphens) to – (a dash). Check these options because you’re likely to find the fix there (many of these same options can also be found on the “AutoFormat As You Type” tab as well) In fact, you’d do well to check out the whole “AutoCorrect” dialog to understand what formatting tricks Word is applying to your documents.

Let’s now move on to the business of actually building and formatting lists.

Bulleted lists

You can quickly create bulleted lists by selecting the text you want clicking the “Bullets” button. Bullets will be placed at the head of each line after a line break.

From the “Bullet Library” you can select a different bullet scheme. Below you can see which bullets are being used in the document.

Finally, you can define a new bullet scheme from a symbol, picture, or font.

So the end result, is the ability to create lists that adhere to a particular style, like a Pi symbols for a nerdy list:

π Run for Chess Club president

π Buy new Magic cards

π Clean heat sink in desktop

π Dr. Who marathon!

π Play EVE Online

Or you could create a food-themed list with its own special bullet:



Mountain Dew


Beer (sadly, not free)

The point is, you’re not limited in the stock bullets that come with Word 2013, so feel free to express yourself and use them to your advantage!

Numbered lists

When you want to create a numbered list, you can usually begin a line with a number and Word will automatically start formatting it as such. You can still create a list and apply numbers to it though by clicking the “Numbering” button.

Similarly to the bullets window, you can choose a new numbering scheme from a “Numbering Library” and see which numbering schemes are employed in the current document.

You can also define new numbering formats (font, style, and format).

Calling them “Numbered Lists” is something of a misnomer. They’re really more ordered lists because you can order them by any scheme that basically counts up.

So, you can have a numbered list (1, 2, 3, 4 …), or you can use letters (A, B, C, D …), or Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV …). It’s really up to you, once again showing the power of Word’s formatting skills!

Multilevel lists

Finally, a multilevel list, such as you’d typically used to create outlines, can be applied by selecting your text and clicking the “Multilevel List” button.

You can quickly manipulate levels in your outline by placing the pointer at the front of new line and using “Tab” and “Shift + Tab” to increase and decrease them, respectively.

You can also create a new list if the current selections don’t meet your needs. In this dialog, you can select each level you want to modify and apply formats, styles, positions, and so on.

Similarly, you can define a new list style. Here you see we can name our new style, define levels and indenting, whether it’s bulleted, numbered, as well as choose symbols or pictures. Note, this dialog originates from the “Multilevel List” options but it applies to all types of aforementioned list styles.

In most cases, you’re going to want to use bulleted and numbered lists most often while multilevel lists are useful for creating outlines. Nevertheless, you have a huge amount of flexibility with all three. Whether you’re just making a simple bulleted list with checkboxes for your children’s chores, or outlining an epic 1000+ page novel with multiple chapters and sub-chapters, Word allows you grab control of your creation process and produce winning content!

Coming up Next…

So there ends today’s lesson, we hope you are on firmer ground when it comes to paragraph formatting, shading and borders, as well as the myriad of options you have when it comes to lists. Don’t forget, you can always go back and read Lesson 1 if you missed anything we previously covered.

In tomorrow’s lesson, we’re going to cover tables as well a whole host of formatting controls such as headers and footers, working with symbols, and quite a bit more!

Profile Photo for Matt Klein Matt Klein
Matt Klein has nearly two decades of technical writing experience. He's covered Windows, Android, macOS, Microsoft Office, and everything in between. He's even written a book, The How-To Geek Guide to Windows 8.
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