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How to Create a Hanging Indent in Google Docs

A hanging indent is often called a second line indent or a reverse indent. No matter how you describe them, hanging indents appear in a wide range of documents and they’re easy to use in Google Docs.

Before we talk about how to create a hanging indent, let’s start with the most basic question of all.

What is a hanging indent?

A hanging indent is a formatting technique that is used to position the first line of a paragraph at the document’s margin while subsequent lines are indented. Hanging indents are used in formal documents and academic papers, usually for citations and bibliographies.

If you’re not sure what citations and bibliographies are, here are a couple of definitions.

Citations

A citation is a way to communicate that some of the content in your document came from another source. Citations allow you to reference someone else’s work without committing plagiarism.

Bibliographies

A bibliography lets you list all of the sources you used in your research. Bibliographies can include entries for books, magazines, videos, and websites.

What does a Hanging Indent Look Like?

By now, you probably know the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. With this in mind, let’s take a look at an actual bibliography created in Google Docs.

Here is a screenshot of a few entries in a bibliography, formatted with hanging indents.

Bibliography with hanging idents

Notice how the hanging indents in the bibliography allow you to scan through the list of references and easily locate a specific author. Author names are set apart from the rest of the content through the use of hanging indents.

How to Do a Hanging Indent in Google Docs

Follow these steps to create a hanging indent in Google Docs.

  1. Drag to select the text you want to format using hanging idents.
  2. Click the Format menu, point to Align and indent, then select Indentation options.
    The Indentation options dialog box appears.
  3. In the Indentation options dialog box, select Hanging from the drop-down menuunder Special indent.
  4. Click Apply.

Here are a couple of screenshots to accompany these instructions.

Indentation options selected by clicking Format > Align and indent.
Hanging indent selected in the Indentation options dialog box

Create a Hanging Indent with the Ruler in Google Docs

You can also create a hanging indent in Google Docs using the ruler. Before you begin, make sure the ruler is displayed. (Click the View menu then select Show ruler, if necessary).

Follow these steps to do a hanging indent using the ruler in Google Docs.

  1. Select the text you want to format using hanging idents.
  2. Drag the blue Left indent marker to the point on the ruler where you want the hanging indent to be.
    The First line indent marker will move as well.
  3. Drag the blue First line indent marker back to the margin.

This screenshot shows the first line and left indent markers. Don’t forget to select your text before setting up your hanging indents!

Indent markers on the ruler in Google Docs

In Closing

Both of these techniques accomplish the same thing. They allow you to format paragraphs using hanging indents in Google Docs. Choose the method you find easiest, and you’ll be a pro at hanging indents in no time!

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.