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Controlling Automatic Indenting

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: Controlling Automatic Indenting.

You've done it before—you are typing along, minding your own business, when you press the Tab key at the beginning of a paragraph and notice that everything in the paragraph is automatically indented. If you are like me, you probably scream a bit, and then delete the paragraph and continue typing.

What you have just experienced is the automatic indenting feature in Word. It simply means that Word assumes you want to indent the paragraph if you start it out by pressing the Tab key. So, it dutifully indents for you. If you don't like this feature and want Word to accept your tabs for exactly what they are (tabs), then you need to turn off the feature by following these steps:

  1. Choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  2. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  4. Make sure the Set Left- and First-Indent with Tabs and Backspace option is cleared.
  5. Click on OK.

Now any new tabs that you type are nothing but lowly tabs, and you are back in control of your backspaces.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1483) 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: Controlling Automatic Indenting.

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Comments for this tip:

darryl    17 May 2016, 22:35
can't get to auto correct, different "options" are not the one needed "Word Options"? HOW TO GET THERE windows 8
Superloach    10 Jan 2016, 21:41
Greg Todd    04 Dec 2015, 17:28
Doesn't work for me! 12/4/2015
R Jones    02 Mar 2015, 08:56
I found it works for new documents that are saved after this change is made in the options. it will not work on an existing document that is causing the trouble. The document would have to be recreated to get rid of the hassle.

Richard Hutchins    01 Mar 2015, 12:54
Works great! Thanks!
Rosemary Jones    09 Feb 2015, 16:16

Hi there

I tried this and it didnt work. Any other suggestions?


Bob Williams    26 Jul 2014, 03:30
If this works I will be for ever grateful.

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