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: Applying Bullets from the Keyboard.

Applying Bullets from the Keyboard

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 13, 2018)


Word includes a handy-dandy tool on the toolbar that allows you to add bullets to a paragraph in a jiffy, and just as easily remove them. Unfortunately, there is no just-as-easy way to do the same thing using the keyboard.

If you are bound and determined to use the keyboard to apply (and remove) bullets, there are a couple of things you can look at. The first is to use styles and define keystrokes that apply your styles. There are numerous other benefits to using styles, but most of those have been covered in other WordTips.

Closely related to this approach are two built-in shortcuts provided by Word. If you press Ctrl+Shift+L, Word is supposed to automatically apply the predefined List Bullet style to your paragraph. Unfortunately, there are many reports of this not working reliably. (On some systems it won't apply the style, even though the shortcut is still "attached" to it.) To remove bullets, you could also use the Ctrl+Shift+N shortcut, which applies the Normal style.

While these may work for what you want done, they don't take the same approach to formatting as the Bullets tool on the toolbar. If you want to have that same functionality from the keyboard, you must customize your keyboard. You do this by displaying the Customize Keyboard dialog box. (See Figure 1.) How you display the dialog box depends on the version of Word you are using.

Figure 1. The Customize Keyboard dialog box.

  • If you are using a version of Word prior to Word 2007, choose Tools | Customize | Keyboard button.
  • If you are using Word 2007, click the Office button and then click Word Options. In the Word Options dialog box, click Customize and then click the Customize button.

Once the Customize Keyboard dialog box is displayed, follow these steps:

  1. In the Categories list, choose Formatting.
  2. In the Commands list, choose FormatBulletDefault.
  3. Click in the Press New Shortcut Key box.
  4. Press the keystroke you want to use to apply bullets. Alt+B is a good choice, since it is not in use on a default Word system.
  5. Click on Assign.
  6. Click on Close to dismiss the Customize Keyboard dialog box.
  7. Click on Close to close the Customize dialog box.

Now, whenever you press the keystroke you chose in step 4, it is the same as clicking on the Bullets tool. Press the keystroke again, and the bullets are gone. (Of course, you can also press Ctrl+Q to remove the bullets by returning to the default paragraph formatting.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (87) 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: Applying Bullets from the Keyboard.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is nine more than 2?

2018-04-20 00:00:39

Usman Afzal

Assigned Alt+B Keyboard shortcut. Works perfectly. Thank you for this great simple tip !!!

2017-09-12 14:17:33

matt mammola

thaaaank you! I dont understand why CTRL+SHIFT+L makes weird bullet point list that doesnt change bullet styles upon indent, but thats all i could find previously.

And when i looked at the list of commands to assign keys to, it was way too long to do trial and error to see which one was right for the bullet point command i desired.

This was an awesome knowledge share, thank you!

2016-11-29 06:44:22


thanks ,it is very useful to me

2016-06-05 10:42:26


Thank you! I'm using Word 2013, and was able to work with these instructions. I could not find FormatBulletList, so in the Categories List I chose All Commands and found it there! Thanks again

2016-05-27 18:08:56


Can you tell me how to search and replace bullets in a document? These are not preformatted list, but bullets just stuck in the document.

2015-07-22 14:14:24

Tim L

Extremely helpful - Thanks!

2015-07-15 15:27:29


Thank you for this article!! So helpful!!!

2015-06-19 18:52:48


He's probably using a newer version than 2000. I'm using office 2013 and it worked

2015-05-01 10:35:08


A repeat of my first attempt after receiving a "Flood" error.

Apropos K Oot's comment, I am perplexed - and perhaps others are too. For me, typing an asterisk followed by a space simply gives an asterisk followed by a space! I'm using Word 2000.

Perhaps K Oot can clarify his method and the Word version used.

2015-05-01 10:33:31


Apropos K Oot's comment, I am perplexed - and perhaps others are too. For me, typing an asterisk followed by a space simply gives an asterisk followed by a space! I'm using Word 2000.

Perhaps K Oot can clarify his method and the Word version used.

2015-04-30 06:44:11

K. Oot

You can also just type an asterisk. After you press space, a bullet will appear.

2014-12-11 08:19:08


Great, thanks for the hsort-cut

2014-09-27 03:09:38


Excellent tips and nice screen shot... Thanks

2013-10-08 17:41:19

William J. Wolfe

The steps for linking styles to multilevel bulleted and numbered lists are exactly the same. Read through my comment of 17 June 2013, and use the same steps to create a "List Style" for a numbered list and attach it to "List Number" style.

Then create a keyboard shortcut for "List Number" and you'll be ready to go.

2013-09-30 16:46:09


i want to knw that how to create shortcut for number bullet ..not list bullet

2013-08-19 10:47:44

William J. wolfe

First, make sure that you're saving your shortcut into the Normal template. (In the "Customize Keyboard" menu, the "Save changes in:" dropdown should default to Normal.dotm.) Then, when you exit word, if your'e prompted to save changes to Normal, click "OK."

On the second issue, it sounds like you've set up your document to "Automatically update document styles." Either uncheck this option in the "Templates and Add-Ins" menu (my preference), or edit the style in the parent template. I always keep this unchecked by default, and only check it when I explicitly want to update styles, then I uncheck it again. This way, my "tweaks" don't get inadvertantly "untweaked."

2013-08-19 01:30:52


This has been wonderful for me. However, recently when I add any new keyboard works fine until I close the document and open a new one. Then it no longer works. I also find that the default space is set at 1.5 lines and when I click on paragraph, and adjust the line spacing to 1, and close the document, and reverts back to the 1.5 line spacing again. Do you have any information on this?

2013-06-17 10:41:52

William J. Wolfe

To add a bit more functionality to this tip, define a "List Style" that specifies up to nine levels of bullets, and attach each level to the same bulleted list style ("List Bullet," for example).

This way, after you an apply the "List Bullet" style from the keyboard, you can then promote/demote levels using the default keystrokes "Alt-Shift-Right/Left Arrow."

This also works with numbered lists. However, I have found that simply applying the "List Number" style defaults to a list that continues the numbering from the last list. For that reason, I use a macro to apply the "List Number" style, and to then reset the numbering of the first list entry to "1".

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