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Hanging Indents in Wrapped Text

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: Hanging Indents in Wrapped Text.

If you place an object—such as a text box—at the left side of a page, and then wrap text around that object, you can create some interesting layouts. You can also be faced with a great deal of frustration because normal text wraps very nicely around the object, but some text doesn't behave like you would expect.

For instance, if you have paragraphs formatted with hanging indents, those paragraphs won't display properly to the right of the object. The reason for this is quite simple, really. When you place the object in the document, Word doesn't change the margins for the page. Thus, if you have an object that is one inch wide, and the hanging indent is only one-half inch, then the half-inch point actually is in the middle of the object. Word, seeing that the hang distance is to the left of where the text wraps, ignores it completely; it does not treat the text as if the left margin were to the right of the object.

So how do you get the text to actually indent properly when wrapping at the right of an object? There is no easy or completely satisfactory way to do it. One approach is to adjust the margins for the page so that they go to the right of the text box. When you push the margins over, Word handles hanging indents properly for the page. Of course, changing the margins isn't terribly helpful for the parts of your document below the text box, where you would want the margins to again revert farther to the left.

Another approach is to place another text box on the page, this one to the right of the object around which you were wrapping. You can then place your text in the text box, and the hanging indents work fine. The drawback here, of course, is that if your text runs longer than what will fit in the text box, you need to somehow transition back to "regular" text that isn't in the text box—not the easiest of transitions to make.

Another solution, if you use styles, is to create special styles that you use for the hanging indent paragraphs that are beside wrapped objects. For instance, if the wrapped object is a "placeholder" for a letterhead, it is two inches wide, and it runs down the full left side of the first page, then you could create hanging indent styles that add two inches to the left indent of the paragraph. Apply the style to the paragraphs, and the hanging will appear to be proper in relation to the object being wrapped.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6860) 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: Hanging Indents in Wrapped Text.

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