How to Indent on Google Docs


Matthew Burleigh

Indenting on Google Docs is a snap! By using the ruler or the menu options, you can easily adjust the indent of your paragraphs. Whether you’re looking to create a hanging indent for a bibliography or adjust the overall layout of your document, the tools within Google Docs can make it happen smoothly.

After indenting text, the structure of your document will be more organized, making it easier to read and more visually appealing. Proper indentation can highlight section beginnings or emphasize quotations, enhancing the document’s flow and readability.


Indentation in writing is like breathing in speaking—it’s all about pacing and structure. When we’re talking about Google Docs, one of the most versatile and widely-used writing tools out there, knowing how to manipulate indentation isn’t just a fancy add-on; it’s essential. Why? Because whether you’re a student outlining a critical paper, a business professional drafting a proposal, or a novelist organizing chapters, how you format your document matters. It’s not just about making your text look good—it’s about creating a readable, professional document that communicates your points effectively.

Indentation in Google Docs can be a deal-maker in achieving this goal. It’s relevant to pretty much anyone who uses the platform—from middle schoolers working on their first big report to seasoned pros curating a detailed business plan. Understanding the ins and outs of indenting can transform a chaotic jumble of text into a polished, orderly masterpiece. So, let’s demystify the process and ensure you’re equipped to make every document you create stand out, for all the right reasons.

Related: How to Do a Hanging Indent on Google Docs

A Step by Step Tutorial

Before diving into the steps, let’s clarify what we’ll accomplish here. This tutorial will walk you through the process of indenting text in your Google Docs. By following these steps, you’ll be able to adjust the indentation of paragraphs, which is crucial for structuring your document correctly.

Step 1: Open your Google Doc

Access your document on Google Docs.

Opening your document is the first step. Make sure you’re logged into your Google account and head over to Google Docs. Find the document you want to edit or create a new one to practice indenting.

Step 2: Select the text you want to indent

Click and drag to highlight the text for indentation.

Once your document is open, decide which parts of your text need an indent. Click at the beginning of your selected text, hold down the mouse button, and drag to the end of the section you want to highlight.

Step 3: Use the ruler to set the indent

Drag the blue triangle on the ruler to create an indent.

If the ruler is not visible, you can enable it by clicking on “View” in the top menu and then checking “Show ruler.” Once you see the ruler, you’ll notice a blue triangle on the left side. Click and drag this triangle to the right to create your indent.

Step 4: Adjust indent using the menu

Go to Format > Align & indent > Indentation options.

For more precise control or to create different types of indents, like hanging indents, use the menu options. This allows you to specify exact measurements for your indents and is especially useful for academic papers.

Step 5: Set specific indent measurements

In the Indentation options, input the values for your indents and click Apply.

If you want your text to be indented to a specific measurement, the Indentation options box is where you can set exact values for both left and right indents. This feature is great for aligning text to specific formatting requirements.


Benefit 1: Improved readability

Indentation organizes your document and makes it more readable.

Indenting your text can significantly impact how readers process your information. It breaks up large blocks of text, making your document easier to follow and understand.

Benefit 2: Professional appearance

Well-indented documents look more professional.

Documents with proper indentation are more than just easy to read—they also look more professional. This can be especially important for business documents, resumes, and academic papers where first impressions count.

Benefit 3: Greater control over layout

Indenting gives you control over the layout of your document.

When you know how to indent correctly, you gain greater control over the visual layout of your document. This is key in creating a document that not only reads well but also looks the part.


Drawback 1: Can be confusing

Multiple indenting options can be confusing at first.

For new users, the array of indenting options and rules can be somewhat confusing. It might take a bit of practice to become comfortable with these features.

Drawback 2: Inconsistent across devices

Indentations may display differently on various devices.

The way indents appear can vary depending on the device or screen size. This means your carefully formatted document might look different when viewed on a phone or a different computer.

Drawback 3: Overuse can clutter

Too much indenting can clutter a document.

While indenting can enhance a document’s readability, overusing this feature can have the opposite effect, cluttering the document and making it harder to follow.

Additional Information

While the steps above will get you well on your way to mastering indentation in Google Docs, there’s always more to learn. For example, did you know that keyboard shortcuts can speed up the process? Hitting ‘Tab’ at the start of a paragraph will indent the first line, and if you want to increase or decrease the indent of an entire paragraph, you can use ‘Ctrl + ]’ and ‘Ctrl + [‘ respectively (or ‘Cmd’ instead of ‘Ctrl’ on a Mac).

What about those times when you need to format your document to meet specific academic standards? Google Docs can handle that too. Hanging indents, often used in works cited pages, are a breeze once you know where to look (hint: it’s in the Indentation options).

Moreover, if you’re collaborating on a document, it’s crucial to be consistent with your indentation to maintain a uniform appearance. Discuss with your collaborators which indent style you will be using to ensure the document’s formatting remains coherent throughout.


  1. Open your Google Doc.
  2. Select the text you want to indent.
  3. Use the ruler to set the indent.
  4. Adjust indent using the menu.
  5. Set specific indent measurements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the shortcut for increasing indent in Google Docs?

You can increase indent by pressing ‘Ctrl + ]’ on a PC or ‘Cmd + ]’ on a Mac.

Can I create a hanging indent in Google Docs?

Yes, you can create a hanging indent by going to Format > Align & indent > Indentation options and setting a negative indent for the first line.

Why is my indent not working in Google Docs?

Make sure you’re not in “Suggesting” mode, as formatting changes like indentation won’t apply. Also, check if the ruler is visible; if not, enable it under the View menu.

Can I save my indentation settings for new documents?

While you can’t save settings across all new documents, you can create a template with your preferred settings to use as a starting point for future documents.

How do I remove an indent in Google Docs?

To remove an indent, you can drag the blue triangle on the ruler back to the left margin or set the indent value to 0 in the Indentation options.


Mastering the art of indenting in Google Docs can take your documents from amateur to professional with just a few clicks. It’s not only about making your writing visually appealing but also about enhancing its readability and ensuring that your ideas are presented clearly and effectively. While there are a few pitfalls to watch out for, the benefits of learning this essential formatting skill far outweigh the challenges. And remember, like any skill, it gets easier with practice. So, dive in, start indenting, and watch your documents transform!

Matthew Burleigh

Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech content online for more than ten years. He enjoys writing about Google Docs in addition to many other applications and devices and has cumulatively covered Google’s word-processing application in hundreds of different articles.

He has been published on dozens of popular websites, and his works have accumulated millions of pageviews.
While focused primarily on tutorials and guides for popular electronics like the iPhone and iPad, as well as common applications like Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, he covers topics across the entire technology spectrum.

You can read his bio here.

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