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Vertical Lines in Word

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Vertical Lines in Word.

For some documents you may have a need to insert vertical lines. There are actually three or four different ways you can do this in Word. The actual method you choose depends on your document needs and which appeals to you the most. The first method involves using the Drawing toolbar:

  1. Click on the Drawing tool on the regular toolbar. The Drawing toolbar appears at the bottom of the screen, just above the status bar.
  2. Click on the line tool on the Drawing toolbar.
  3. The mouse pointer changes to a cross hair that looks like a large plus sign.
  4. Click at one end of where you want your line, but don't release the mouse button.
  5. Drag the mouse to where you want the other end of the line positioned.
  6. Release the mouse button.

You can continue to draw more lines using this same technique, or you can simply close the drawing toolbar by again clicking on the Drawing tool on the regular toolbar.

The second method involves using bar tab stops. You can see how these appear by following these steps:

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs that you want to contain vertical bars.
  2. Choose Tabs from the Format menu. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  4. In the Tab Stop Position box enter a horizontal measurement that indicates where you want the bar to appear. Thus, if you want it 2 inches from the left margin, you would enter 2 in the box.
  5. Click on the Bar radio button.
  6. Click on Set.
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 5 to set other bar positions.
  8. Click on OK when you are done.

If you have multiple columns in your document and you want vertical lines between the columns, you can follow these steps:

  1. Select the text that you want in columns. (If you don't do this step, then your entire section or document will be formatted into columns.)
  2. Choose Columns from the Format menu. The Columns dialog box appears. (See Figure 2.)
  3. Figure 2. The Columns dialog box.

  4. Specify the number of columns into which you want the text formatted.
  5. Make sure the Line Between check box is selected.
  6. Click on OK.

The final way to create vertical lines is to use tables. While this may seem a bit convoluted, it will work great for small sections of text. To use this method, follow these general steps:

  1. Create a table that has a single row but as many columns as you want your text divided into.
  2. Select the table.
  3. Choose Borders and Shading from the Format menu. The Borders and Shading dialog box appears. (This dialog box is named Table Borders and Shading in Word 6 and Word 95.)
  4. In the preview section, click the vertical divider in the middle to the layout example.
  5. Select the line size you want used for the cell divider.
  6. Click on OK.
  7. Enter your text in each cell of the table.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1061) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Vertical Lines in Word.

Related Tips:

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Comments for this tip:

Terry    17 Mar 2016, 14:24
key: \ = \
key: shift \ = |
Isabelle    26 Jan 2016, 10:18
I am working with a Newsletter that is divided in two colums with a vertical line seperating the two columns. I am inserting a SmartArt graphic in the Newsletter. I am trying to bring my SmartArt graphic to front so my vertical line will not show accross my smartart. It is not working. With my SmartArt selected and with the SmartArt Tools menu, I use the Organize option to put text behind and it does not work! Any clues as to why I can't get it to work??


tomtomhotep    16 Jun 2014, 11:53
You can also just select your paragraph(s) and go directly to borders and shading if all you want is a vertical line to the left (or right) of the paragraphs to set them off.
Robin S.    26 Mar 2013, 13:17
I want to put lines in my word document, I want to be able to type on the lines without a space (keeping it a solid line) and when I reach the end of the line, I want it to go to the next line and conitnue on it with the line under what I am typing. Everything I have tried makes only one line and two + sentences on that line. ???
Veronica    10 Dec 2012, 13:21
@Willy Haile

Is there any reason why you cannot use a table for your caption?

For the caption in virtually all legal pleadings, we use a table and turn off all the table borders that we do not need. You can use a 2-column table for captions with a single line in the midde and a 3-column table for captions with a right parens (")")character down the middle. For the line below the party names, you can use the border feature for that as well.
Cristi    09 Dec 2012, 07:25
@Antonia Potter: For Office 2007, you find the drawing tools in the "Insert" tab, in the "Illustrations" subsection of the tab, under "Shapes". Click on "Shapes" and there you have all sorts of shapes, including lines. Select the line you want, click within document and drag.
@Derek Johnson: If you need to change the length of the line, just click on the line; some green (or otherwise colored) dots should appear at both ends of the line; click on them and drag to change the length of the line.
@Willy Haile: You must go to Word options and uncheck where it says "Automatically create drawing canvas when inserting Autoshapes". In Word 2007, you find it in Microsoft round button in the upper left corner > Word Options (somewhere down the menu that appears) > Advanced tab > the fifth option. I think that's the problem, but then I might be wrong :)
Willy Haile    09 Dec 2012, 03:44
Well, as I play around with this word 2003 verticle line drawing, seems that once I draw a verticle line where there is no text, I can't type into that area and also, I can't get rid of the line any other way except to drive it out the top of the page with my mouse pointer, but then I have the problem of a solid black box the same size as the square outline that appeared when I activated the drawing line feature...and I'm gonna give this a rest as just one more "quirk" of an inferior program...what's perfect anyway, right?
Willy Haile    09 Dec 2012, 03:23
OK. I think I found the limits of drawing a verticle line in a word 2003 document. If I draw the line in advance of typing any text, then I can't get back into type in that area of the document, but if I draw the line after or during my typing, I can. What a find...I've torn my hair out struggling with this longer than I wish to admit. the pipe character gave me a dotted verticle line and I had to do it line by line...to tedius for me...used to be typewriters used right paragraph symbol " ) " line by line as the docu was typed..but I'm glad to see find this feature...there just had to be an easy way and nobody else could tell me. Thanks Allen.
Willy Haile    09 Dec 2012, 03:08
Well, sorry to bother you again, I just did a sample docu and this time I was able to click out of the drawing tool and continue to type the document, looks like the secret is to insert the line once the part where you want it is typed, and then continue turning the drawing line feature off with a click. thanks. I think I got it now.
Willy Haile    09 Dec 2012, 03:04
Correction to verticle line problem: I can type into the document once the verticle line is drawn with "Drawing" feature, but not in the area where the line is, and as I space to a new line the verticle line also shifts down another space. Is this drawing a line then supposed to be done once the document is completed? Thanks.
Willy Haile    09 Dec 2012, 02:58
Thanks for the verticle line tips. I'm typing a legal pleading, traditionally placing a short, verticle line at center of page between the named parties and the case no. and title of pleading, and one solid horizontal line below the parties names...then the text of the pleading lies below without any lines. I used your tip "drawing line"...but once I use that feature, I can't get back into the document to type any text. Question: Is there a way to type into the document once the verticle line is drawn? If so, how can I accomplish that?
Antonia Potter    10 Sep 2012, 08:35
I don't see "Format," "Tab," or "Drawing" anywhere in my 2007 MS Word display. Clicked on all the items on the menu, looked within them, looked down in the lower area where you said "Drawing" tool would be located - nothing...

Trying to create letterhead for a nonprofit organization, with a vertical line down the left margin, into which I will type the officers' names...Can you help me figure out about making a vertical line if I can't find any of the above-mentioned words for the methods?

Derek Johnson    09 May 2012, 12:54
Perhaps I have overlooked it, but I do not see anything on this page about changing the length of a vertical line once it's there. I have found hundreds of websites that tell you how to put a vertical line in - I've done that, but now I need to alter the length of it. How do you do that? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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