Increasing Space between Numbers and Text in a List

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 18, 2021)


Many people like to use the Numbering tool, on the Formatting toolbar, to create numbered lists in a document. When formatting your list, the tool assumes that you are working with lists that have only a few items in them. If you have lists with many, many items, then they may not look right when you view items that have two or three digits in the number. For instance, there may be very little space between a two-digit list number and the start of your text. It may be even worse if you have list items that use three digits.

If you want to change the way that spacing is handled between list numbers and the text in the list item itself, follow these steps:

  1. Select the list items you want to change. (You would normally select all the numbered items in your list.)
  2. Choose Bullets and Numbering from the Format menu. Word displays the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, with the Numbered tab selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Numbered tab of the Bullets and Numbering dialog box.

  4. Click Customize. The Customize Numbered List dialog box should appear. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Customize Numbered List dialog box.

  6. Use the Number Position controls to specify how the number in the selected list items should be aligned, and where it should appear horizontally.
  7. Use the two controls in the Text Position area to specify how far the numbered item should be indented. (For the best effect, both controls in this area should be set to the same value.)
  8. Close both of the open dialog boxes by clicking OK in them.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3455) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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 eight more than 4?

2021-04-28 00:41:40

Diana Burke

Hello Mr. Wyatt:

I am a subscriber and find your tips very useful.

Is there a way to accommodate section numbers that need more space after the section number than other section numbers without affecting the TOC? For example, Section 4.1.1 has the right amount of space between 4.1.1 and the section title, but there isn't enough space in the Section 8.11.16 heading between 8.11.16 and the section title. Increasing the space in the Heading 3 style would result in too much space between 4.1.1 and the section title.
(see Figure 1 below)

Thank you.

Figure 1. 

2020-05-25 10:57:02


Leaving this for anyone with same issue. I solved it.

So I had made styles for my numbered list because the document had lots of graphics and tables that broke up the list.

I was on the right track. Originally, I had a tab set to 0.3 inches to make enough space between a double digit number and the text.
I'd left the default tab stop was set at 0.5 inches. The double digit numbers looked good. However, the space between a single digit number and the text was too big.

All I did was change the tab to the standard 0.25 inches and changed the default tab stop to 0.3 inches. Worked perfectly!

2020-05-24 16:01:17


A note about my comment below - when I typed out several spaces between the number and text, they were eliminated when posted, so I'm afraid my attempt to show you didn't work. I hope you understand anyway.

2020-05-24 15:58:32


My problem is that the adjust indent gets applied to to ALL numbers in the list.

My list looks like this
1. text
2. text

If I set the tab for the double digit number to 0.3, the double digit numbers look great the but single digit numbers have wayyyy too big a space between them.
And ends up looking like this
1. text
2. text
10. text

Can you give me some idea of settings for Arial 10 pt? I'm at my wit's end. Please help, I'm a freelancer on a deadline. Thanks.

2018-01-30 09:14:18


Thanks Chris Whitehead! I saw Pablo's comment and then read yours. It helped! Thanks!

2018-01-30 09:08:58


I copied this message from a previous comment. I have the same problem. Please help! I have Office 2010 and couldn't find this feature :( I could format the numbered list but theres no text position option. Once my list gets to 10 items, there's no space after the period, so it looks like 10.Item. Any suggestions?

2016-08-11 07:40:31


Thanks chris whitehead and all for your comments and to the author for the article. Very helpful!

2016-08-09 12:42:36

Sharon Conway

Thanks. This tip was VERY helpful!

2016-02-12 11:08:09

Keith J. Baker

I have Office 2010 and couldn't find this feature :( I could format the numbered list but theres no text position option. Once my list gets to 10 items, theres no space after the period, so it looks like 10.Item. Any suggestions?

2014-12-05 08:41:54

Abu Baker

How to increase the space between heading number and the text in word 2013? Please I have to submit my resrach soon.
Abu Baker

2014-07-11 16:59:42

chris whitehead

The spacing changes because the numbered list is set to include a Tab after the list number. To change this:
1. Click on the number where you are having problems. You will see the list numbers highlighted in grey.
2. Right click on the list number and select 'adjust list indent'.
3. Click More in the bottom left corner.
4. In the bottom right corner, right above the OK and Cancel buttons, a list will appear labeled Follow number with:.
5. Change this to space or nothing. You can also adjust the Add tab stop at:

let me know if you have any questions.

2013-10-31 07:46:42


Try Suzanne Barnhill's pages on numbering:

Word 2003:

Word 2007:

2013-10-26 17:38:21

C Dibble

In numbered lists, Word seems to line up the left-most digit so that the following appears:

Is there a quick fix so the line-up is "accountant style":

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