Right Aligning a Table Column with an Indent

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 17, 2021)

Marcia wants to right align text in a column within a table. She wants that text to be right-aligned to a point 25 points from the right edge of the column. If she selects the entire column then chooses 25 pt for the right indent, she gets a message saying "Indent Size is Too Large," even though the column is very wide. If she chooses just one cell at a time, she can right-align the text with a right indent of 25 points. She wonders how to format all the cells in the column at the same time.

There are actually a couple of ways that this indent could be applied, and it depends on which method you are using as to why you are having a problem with it. To set the cell margin, follow these steps:

  1. Select all the cells you want to format. For instance, to format all the cells in the column, select the entire column.
  2. Click the Layout tab of the ribbon. (This tab is visible if you performed step 1.)
  3. Click the Properties tool, in the Table group at the left side of the ribbon. Word displays the Table Properties dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Cell tab is displayed.
  5. Click the Options button at the lower-right corner of the dialog box. Word displays the Cell Options dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Cell Options dialog box.

  7. Clear the Same As the Whole Table checkbox.
  8. Delete whatever is in the Right box, replacing it with "25 pt" (without the quote marks).
  9. Click OK to close the Cell Options dialog box.
  10. Click OK to close the Table Properties dialog box.

That's it. The important thing is to make sure that you enter your measurement, in step 7, as "25 pt." If you forget to specify the "pt" part, then Word assumes you want a cell margin of 25 inches, and that won't work.

Some users reported that they received different results if they selected cells as opposed to selecting the entire column. To select a column they would position the mouse pointer above the column until it turned into a downward-pointing arrow. Clicking at that point selected the column. To select cells, they would simply click within the first cell and drag down to the last cell they wanted to select. I was not able to verify differing results in my testing, but your results may differ.

Also, you may have noted when you were looking at the Layout tab of the ribbon that there is a tool near the right side of the ribbon (in the Alignment group) named Cell Margins. You should only use this tool if you want to adjust the margins for all cells in the entire table—the change isn't limited to the cells you selected in step 1.

The other way to handle the indent is to skip setting cell margins and, instead, set paragraph margins. You can do that by following these steps:

  1. Select all the cells you want to format. For instance, to format all the cells in the column, select the entire column.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Paragraph group. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Indents and Spacing tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The Indents and Spacing tab of the Paragraph dialog box.

  6. Delete whatever is in the Right box, replacing it with "25 pt" (without the quote marks).
  7. Click OK.

There is a caveat to this approach: Whatever you enter in step 5 is added to whatever the default cell margin is in the table. The default cell margin is 0.08 inches, which comes out to just under 6 points. Thus, you may want to modify the amount you specify in step 5 so you get the right indent you really want.

Both of the above approaches were tested with simple tables, tables with merged cells, and very long (10 pages) tables. It also worked fine if the cells were vertically aligned or if the text direction on the cells was changed. If you still have problems after trying the above, then you can always format a single cell in the table and use the Format Painter to copy the formatting to other cells.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (667) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

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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