How to Do a Hanging Indent in Google Docs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Creating a hanging indent in Google Docs is a simple process: open your document, highlight the text you want to format, click on “Format” in the top menu, select “Align & indent,” then “Indentation options,” and under “Special indent,” choose “Hanging.” You’ll see your selected text now has a hanging indent, which is often used in bibliographies and reference pages.

After completing this action, all highlighted text will have the first line flush with the left margin, and all subsequent lines indented.


Ever stumbled upon those neatly formatted bibliographies or reference lists where each entry has a slightly indented second line? That’s a hanging indent, and it’s not just there for aesthetic appeal. Hanging indents are a critical part of academic and professional formatting, helping to clearly delineate where one reference ends and another begins. They’re especially common in MLA and APA style documents.

But if you’re using Google Docs, you might be wondering how to create this type of indentation. It’s not as straightforward as hitting a button like you would for a regular indent. However, it’s still a simple process once you know where to look. This article is for students, professionals, or anyone else who needs to format their documents to include hanging indents. It’s a skill that, once learned, will make your documents look more polished and professional. Plus, it can save you a headache when it comes to meeting those stringent formatting guidelines.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Do a Hanging Indent in Google Docs

This section will guide you through the steps to create a hanging indent in your Google Docs document.

Step 1: Open your Google Docs document

Open the document you want to format.

This is, of course, your starting point. Make sure you’re logged into your Google account and open the Docs home to select your document.

Step 2: Highlight the text

Highlight the text you want to format with a hanging indent.

Simply click and drag over the text you want to format. You can also use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+A (Cmd+A on Mac) to select all text in the document.

Step 3: Click on “Format”

In the top menu, click on “Format.”

This will open a drop-down menu with various formatting options.

Step 4: Select “Align & indent”

Hover over “Align & indent” in the drop-down menu.

This will open a side menu with additional options related to text alignment and indentation.

Step 5: Click on “Indentation options”

Select “Indentation options” from the side menu.

A dialog box will appear with various indentation settings you can adjust.

Step 6: Choose “Hanging” under “Special indent”

Under the “Special indent” section, click on the drop-down menu and select “Hanging.”

You’ll be able to specify the depth of the indent here, typically set to 0.5 inches by default.


Professional AppearanceDocuments with hanging indents look more polished and adhere to professional and academic formatting standards.
Clarity of InformationHanging indents help to clearly separate references or list items, making it easier for readers to follow.
Compliance with Formatting GuidelinesMany academic and professional documents require hanging indents for citations, making this a necessary skill.


Slightly Complex ProcessUnlike a standard indent, creating a hanging indent involves multiple steps and is not immediately obvious to new Google Docs users.
Potential for InconsistencyIf not done carefully, the indentations can be inconsistent, leading to a messy-looking document.
Time-consuming for Long DocumentsApplying hanging indents to many references in a long document can be time-consuming.

Additional Information

When formatting your document, keep in mind that the hanging indent is just one part of the equation. For a truly professional and compliant document, you’ll also need to pay attention to font size, style, line spacing, and margins. These elements all play a role in the overall readability and presentation of your work.

Another tip is to use the ruler bar at the top of your Google Docs document. If the ruler is not visible, you can enable it by going to “View” then “Show ruler.” You can manually adjust the indent by dragging the triangle-shaped markers to the desired positions. This can be particularly helpful for fine-tuning the appearance of your document.

Remember that while the default setting for a hanging indent is typically 0.5 inches, this can be adjusted to suit your specific formatting requirements. Always check the guidelines you are supposed to follow, whether it’s an academic style guide or a professional document template.

Lastly, while Google Docs does a great job at creating documents, it’s always a good idea to double-check your work. After creating your hanging indents, take a moment to review the document and ensure that everything aligns correctly.


  1. Open your Google Docs document
  2. Highlight the text
  3. Click on “Format”
  4. Select “Align & indent”
  5. Click on “Indentation options”
  6. Choose “Hanging” under “Special indent”

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a hanging indent used for?

A hanging indent is typically used in bibliographies and reference lists to help differentiate between entries.

Can I adjust the depth of the hanging indent?

Yes, you can specify the depth of the indent, with 0.5 inches being the default setting.

Is a hanging indent necessary?

In many academic and professional settings, a hanging indent is required for citations and references.

Can I apply a hanging indent to multiple paragraphs at once?

Yes, you can highlight multiple paragraphs and apply the hanging indent to them simultaneously.

Will the hanging indent formatting be retained if I export my document?

Yes, if you export your document to a format like PDF, the hanging indent formatting will be retained.


Mastering how to do a hanging indent in Google Docs is an essential skill for anyone serious about presenting information in a clear, professional manner. Whether you’re a student, educator, or professional, knowing how to format your documents correctly can make all the difference in how your work is perceived. With a few simple steps, you can transform a cluttered list of references into a neat, well-organized masterpiece.

While the process might seem a bit complex at first glance, it’s actually quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. Plus, the benefits – a professional appearance, clarity of information, and adherence to formatting guidelines – far outweigh the minor drawbacks and time investment required. So next time you’re working on a document that requires a hanging indent, remember this guide and format with confidence.

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