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How to Do Hanging Indent in Word for Your Essay? [For Students]

April 26, 2024

Referencing can be a really dreadful task, especially when you're required to follow specific formatting styles like APA, MLA, or Chicago. These styles often demand hanging indents for organizing the bibliography page, and getting them right can be a challenge. In this article, we'll show you how to add hanging indents in Microsoft Word, making it easier for students to format their references correctly.

How to Do Hanging Indent in Word for Your Essay

Hanging Indents in APA, MLA and Chicago Style

When crafting essays in some of the most widely used academic styles, like APA, MLA, and Chicago, proper formatting is key. One essential element for a well-organized bibliography in all three of these academic styles is the hanging indent.

A hanging indent is a specific text formatting technique where the first line of a paragraph remains flush with the left margin, while all subsequent lines are indented a designated amount. In the context of bibliographies, this creates a visually distinct presentation for each source.


The first line of each citation (typically the author's name) starts at the left margin, while subsequent lines (publication details, title, etc.) are indented by half an inch.

APA academic style hanging indent


Similar to APA, the first line (usually the title of the work) stands out at the left margin, and subsequent lines containing author information and publication details are indented by half an inch.

MLA academic style hanging indent


The first line of each reference (often the author's name) remains flush with the left margin, while the following lines with publication details are indented slightly (specific indentation amount may vary depending on the reference type).

Chicago academic style hanging indent

To ensure accessibility across various devices, including mobile, Windows, and Mac, I'll be using WPS Office for this demonstration. I've found WPS Office to be an incredibly user-friendly office suite, and the fact that it's available for free makes it even more appealing, especially for students. By following along with the steps using WPS Office, you can avoid any potential confusion and seamlessly navigate through the demo.

WPS Office is also compatible with all Word document versions and offers the convenience of converting your papers to PDF without losing formatting, making it a versatile and reliable choice for academic and professional tasks alike.

How to Do Hanging Indent Quickly in Word for Your Essay

Working on essays and formatting them according to the required academic style is crucial because grades depend on it. Moreover, many academic styles require hanging indents in references, so learning how to create hanging indents in Word can be very useful and rewarding!

Since hanging indent is a feature that is not readily visible in the interface, it can be a bit challenging to find while formatting citations in Word. Let's dive right in and explore two different methods to add hanging indents in Word using WPS Office, which can be extremely helpful for students in the long run.

Using Paragraph Option

Let's see how we can add a hanging indent in Word using the paragraph options.

Step 1: Let's open the document in WPS Office where we need to do the formatting.

Step 2: Select the text using your mouse on which you want to apply hanging indent formatting.

WPS Office select text

Step 3: Right-click to open the context menu, and then click on "Paragraph" to access the paragraph options.

WPS Office Context menu

Step 4: Now, in the Indentation section, navigate to the "Special" field and select "Hanging" from the options.

Step 5: Ensure that the indent is set to "0.5" in the "By" field. Pay attention to the unit of measurement next to the "By" field and make sure it is set to "inch".

Step 6: Once the indentation settings have been adjusted, click on OK.

WPS Office indentation settings

Using the Ruler

Another method that involves using the ruler to add a hanging indent is a rather interactive approach. Let's explore the steps to add a hanging indent using the ruler.

Step 1: Select the text on WPS Office that you want to format.

WPS Office select the text to add hanging indent

Step 2: After selecting the text, go to the "View" tab in the ribbon menu and ensure that the "Ruler" option is checked to display the ruler.

WPS Office ruler option

Step 3: Now, on the ruler, drag the bottom triangle to add the hanging indent. Ensure that you move the ruler by just 0.5 inches to apply the formatting according to the academic style.

WPS Office move bottom triangle to add hanging indent

Shortcut for Hanging Indents in Word

Here's a breakdown on how to quickly apply hanging indents in Microsoft Word using keyboard shortcuts, whether you're on Windows or Mac:

Shortcut for Windows:

Step 1: Open your Microsoft Word document on your Windows system.

Step 2: Highlight the text you want to format with a hanging indent.

Step 3: Press Ctrl + T on your keyboard.

Shortcut for Mac:

Step 1: Open your Microsoft Word document on your Mac.

Step 2: Select the text you want to format with a hanging indent.

Step 3: Press Shift + Command + T on your keyboard.

Bonus Tips: How to Convert Word to PDF Without Losing Format

APA, MLA, and Chicago formatting can be tricky, but the real test comes when converting your work to a PDF. Often, this final step disrupts your carefully crafted format, leading to frustration. WPS PDF is a student-friendly tool that simplifies this process, helping you maintain consistent formatting without the stress. It ensures your paper looks as it should, preventing those moments when you're tempted to pull your hair out.

WPS Writer

WPS Office is a complete tool that allows you to create, edit, and format documents with ease. It supports all major Word document formats, so you don't need to worry about compatibility issues. With its simple interface and robust features, WPS Office is perfect for students and writers who need to follow strict formatting guidelines.

Let's explore how users can convert their Word documents into PDF format using WPS Office.

Step 1: Open your written essay document in WPS Office.

Step 2: Click on the Menu button located in the top left corner.

Step 3: In the menu, click on "Save as", and then select "Other formats" from the flyout menu.

WPS Office save document in other formats

Step 4: Now, you will see the Save option. Choose "PDF Format" from the "File Type" field.

Step 5: Finally, click Save to convert your Word document to PDF.

WPS Office save file as PDF

FAQs About Hanging Indents in Word

Q1. Where is hanging indent in Word on Mac?

Hanging indent is present in the paragraph options on Mac. Simply click on the "Format" menu, then choose "Paragraph," and you'll find it there.

Q2. Why is my hanging indent not working?

Possible Reasons for Hanging Indent Issue:

  • Hard or soft returns after each line: This disrupts the natural flow of the text, causing the hanging indent to apply to the entire text instead of just the selected part. Remove any hard or soft returns after each line to overcome this issue. Lines should wrap naturally without any inserted returns to ensure the hanging indent works properly.

  • Incorrect application of the hanging indent: Incorrectly following the steps to apply the hanging indent can lead to the entire text being indented instead of just the desired portion. Follow these steps carefully to ensure that you add the indent correctly:

Step 1: Navigate to the Format menu.

Step 2: Choose "Align & Indent" followed by "Indent options".

Step 3: Within the Indent options, select "Special".

Step 4: Click on the arrows in the Special menu and choose "Hanging".

Step 5: Finally, press the "Apply" button.

Q3. Do you need a hanging indent?

Hanging indents make it easier to spot the gaps between different citations and find authors' names in a bibliography. It's important to format your works cited or bibliography correctly. This format enhances readability by visually separating each entry, making it quicker to find author names. It also ensures a neat and organized look, which is essential for maintaining a professional appearance. While hanging indents are standard for styles like Chicago, APA, or MLA, it's always a good idea to check your assignment guidelines to see if this formatting is required before you begin writing.

Learn Indent Essentials with WPS Office

Formatting is crucial when writing an academic paper, and understanding the significance of elements like hanging indents is key, especially in major formatting styles like MLA, APA, and Chicago. Learning how to apply hanging indents and properly cite references is essential to avoid losing marks unnecessarily. With WPS Office, managing formatting becomes effortless, thanks to its user-friendly features and integrated AI for document handling. Download WPS Office now to streamline your document creation and ensure your academic papers meet the required standards.

15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.