Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. 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 Leaders with Tab Stops.

Using Leaders with Tab Stops

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 23, 2016)


You probably already know how to insert tab stops in a paragraph. Word allows you to control what characters are inserted in the otherwise blank area created by the tab. These characters are called leaders, and are controlled with the Tabs command from the Format dialog box. Leaders are often used with right-aligned tabs or decimal tabs, particularly when the text column is quite wide and the tab will cover a wide area. To use leaders with tab stops, follow these steps:

  1. Position the insertion point in the paragraph whose tabs you wish to set or alter.
  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. Click the Tabs button. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  6. Enter a tab stop measurement and alignment. (You can also select the measurement of an existing tab stop, if desired.)
  7. Select a leader from the four choices offered.
  8. Click on Set.
  9. Repeat steps 5 through 7 for each tab stop you want to 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 (6709) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Using Leaders with Tab Stops.

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 4 + 4?

2017-03-08 11:47:06


How can you set up the decimal tab to always have leader dots? How can I make leader dots the default on a decimal tab? I'd like to be able to click on the decimal icon in that little box on the left of the screen and when I click it on the ruler it automatically includes the leader dots when I use it. It would save so much more time than going to the paragraph box all the time. We use tabs with leader dots a lot, so I'd like to know a way to do this.


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