Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Using Dot Leaders in a Paragraph.

Using Dot Leaders in a Paragraph

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 26, 2018)


Dot leaders are dots (which look like periods) that appear to the left of information. Dot leaders are often used in tables of contents or in some tabular material. Word allows you to automatically place dot leaders in tabular material. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Make sure the insertion point is in the paragraph in which you want the dot leaders.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the lower-right of the Paragraph group. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box.
  4. Click the Tabs button. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  6. Either select an existing tab stop location or enter a tab stop measurement in the Tab Stop Position box.
  7. Make sure the Alignment type is set as desired.
  8. In the Leader area, click on the second option, which looks like a line of periods or dots.
  9. Click on Set.
  10. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6086) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Using Dot Leaders in a Paragraph.

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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What is 3 + 3?

2016-09-14 14:12:54

Linda Ramirez

Thank you! This really saved me a lot of time figuring out how to prepare the table of contents. So grateful!

2016-07-29 12:30:54


You're welcome.

2016-07-28 09:06:04

Theresa Tucker

Hi rpurosky,

Thank you!! I was able to correct the formatting in the second column. Once I did that it was fixed.

Thank you again!

2016-07-27 09:52:59


You have to be careful with columns. Sometimes the paragraph format at the top of one column has to match the format of the last paragraph of the previous column. If that doesn't help and if the document is not a security risk, I would be willing to have you email it to me so I could see what is going on first hand.

2016-07-26 09:58:03

Theresa Tucker

I have 2 columns. Everything formatted with leader dots correctly except the first line in the second column. I can't clear the tabs on that line and I can't get it to display the leader dots. Otherwise the rest of the document is fine.
Can someone help me?

2016-01-04 15:12:35


David, not sure what you mean by your first word "This". If referring to tab sets, only the paragraphs highlighted when the tab is set keep the tab. Highlight the whole document before setting if you want it for everything. If at the end of a paragraph and hitting Enter, the tab sets from the previous paragraph are still set on the new line just created. If "This" refers to format painting, if you double-click the tool it will stay on until you click it again or hit Escape.

2015-12-29 13:13:44


This seems to only work once (one time per line). How can this feature be set to work each time you press tab for the entire paragraph or document? Also, is there a function key to do this as there is in WordPerfect?

2014-09-09 11:48:17

Josh K

Thanks - this was very helpful!

2014-07-10 08:35:01


Vicki, there are several ways to get tab formats you have elsewhere quickly. One straight forward way is to use the format painter. Place your cursor in a paragraph that has the tab formats you like (do not highlight text), click the Format Painter button, then click on the paragraph you wish to copy the tab formats to. This works between an old document and a new one. You can also create a style with the desired tabs and simply apply that style anywhere you like. See previous tips on creating global styles.

2014-07-09 17:06:27


once you set leaders is there a shortcut key(s)? for example once they are set and i begin the document it is a matter of using the tab key for the result but if i am in an existing document and want to add leaders i have to go in each time for each line and set it up

2013-07-01 10:02:12


I would also point out, that when using a dot-leader tab, it is more often than not a right-justified alignment. This because numbers are usually after the tab and numbers are most commonly right-justified.

2013-07-01 07:27:06


Kate, a standard tab stop is just blank, so your text looks something like:

Line 1
Line 2
Line 3

But if you use dot leaders instead, it looks like:

..........Line 1
..........Line 2
..........Line 3

You could also use it to the right or in between text; anywhere you would usually use tabs. This is what allows you to make a fancy table of contents that looks like:

Chapter One ........... 2
Chapter Two ........... 4
Chapter Three ......... 10

(It might not look formatted correctly once I save the comment, but you should get the point)

2013-07-01 06:11:39


I don't quite understand what this tip is getting at - please could we have a photo of what you're trying to end up with?
Thanks - possibly I'm being really stupid =[

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