Feature - How to Do a Hanging Indent on Google Docs

Hanging indents are a requirement for many academic papers, in particular when it comes to your citations or references section. Creating this formatting quirk, however, isn’t always straightforward. As result, this guide will show you how to make a hanging indent on Google Docs.

What is a hanging indent?

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A hanging indent, sometimes called a second line indent, is the practice of offsetting the second and subsequent lines of a paragraph. This indentation is typically five spaces, which translates to half an inch.

Hanging indents are most used in the bibliography in academic papers to allow the reader to easily see the breaks between citations. You can see the difference between a regular paragraph and one with a hanging indent below:

You can therefore create a hanging indent in Google Docs by adjusting your indentation options to indent by a quarter of an inch. There are three main ways to do this:

How to Make a Hanging Indent on Google Docs via the Format Menu

The format menu allows you to adjust the indentation of your text in just a few clicks and allows for the most configuration.

  1. Select the text you want to have as hanging indent and press “Format > Align and indent > Indentation options”

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Select Text - Format - Align & Indent - Indentation Options

  2. In the “Special indent” dropdown, select “Hanging”

    You can also adjust the indentation amount here if you have any additional requirements.

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Indentation Options - Special Indent - Hanging

  3. Set the indentation amount to 0.5 and press “Apply”.

    Of course, you can change this to something else if your style guide dictates it.

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Indentation Options - Special Indent - Define Inches - Apply

  4. Google sheets will indent your second line

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Indentation Options - Special Indent - Define Inches - Apply - Result

How to Indent the Second Line in Google Docs with the Ruler

If you don’t like to poke around in menus, you can hanging indent your text manually with the ruler. This provides the same effect but can be a bit more intuitive for some people.

  1. Press “View > Show ruler” in your toolbar

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - View - Show Ruler

  2. Highlight the text you want to indent and move the ruler triangle to the right

    Step description

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - View - Show Ruler - Move Triangle

  3. Move the bar on top back to the left to unindent the first line

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - View - Show Ruler - Move Bar

  4. Adjust the spacing to your liking

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - View - Show Ruler - Move Triangle & Bar - Result

Google Docs: How to Make a Hanging Indent with a Keyboard Shortcut

Alternatively, you can quickly hanging indent a line with the simple keyboard shortcut below:

  1. Place your cursor next to the line and press “Shift + Tab + Backspace”

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Cursor - Keyword Command

  2. Your selected line will indent

    Windows 11 - Google Docs - Cursor - Keyword Command - Result

Extra: How to do a Hanging Indent in Microsoft Word

Now that you know how to make a hanging indent on Google Docs, you may want to learn the same for Microsoft Word. You can do so by following our dedicated guide.

Extra: How to Change Default Line Spacing and Font Size in Google Docs

If you’d rather continue with Google Docs, you’ll likely need to make further formatting changes before your paper meets standards. Here’s how to change default font style, line spacing, and font size to match your style guide.

 
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