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 June 4, 2022)

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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