Tag Archives: ruler

Using Tabs Effectively in Word Manuscripts

a blue arrow revealing a nonprinting tab mark in Word
A blue arrow reveals the nonprinting tab mark in Word.

That little tab key on your keyboard is excellent for moving between table cells or elements on a form. It can be used to align decimals in a list, and to create blank lines on forms. But never, NEVER, use tab marks instead of format settings. First, here’s how to reveal the tab marks.

Never use tabs to

Manual alignment using tabs creates a mess. Luckily, once you recognize it, getting rid of extra tabs is easy using find and replace. Then, apply numbered list style for proper (automatic and reflowable) alignment!
  • manually align paragraphs or table elements
  • indent the first line (set the style instead)
  • create hanging indents (use the ruler or a style instead)
  • manually number and align lists (use the numbered list style available in literally any program in which you type text, other than social media)
  • manually create a table (convert that now)

Why you should never use tab marks

Tab marks don’t let text reflow when anything changes! Someone will have to manually realign everything if they change the font type, font size, page/column margins, or even punctuation.

Use tabs marks to

On the rare occasion, tabs are great layout aids. But if you’re typing a tab mark mid sentence, or using more than one tab mark, you’re most certainly doing it wrong and creating headaches for everyone down the road. The best use of tab marks are to:

Double-click a tab mark on the ruler or select Tabs from the Format menu to open these settings.

Get a free booklet on working with tables, which addresses many of these tab uses and abuses.

book cover cropped to banner size
For more on working with tabs and deciphering the many options, check out the support page of the book for updates.

Got a gnarly Word problem? Submit your problem and we’ll try to answer it in the Q&A thread.

Learn with us! Join a course today.

© This blog and all materials in it are copyright Adrienne Montgomerie on the date of publication. All rights reserved. No portion may be stored or distributed without express written permission. Asking is easy!