Paragraph Formatting and Creating Lists

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.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.