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: Controlling Automatic Indenting.

Controlling Automatic Indenting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 7, 2018)


You've done it before—you are typing along, minding your own business, when you press the Tab key at the beginning of a paragraph and notice that everything in the paragraph is automatically indented. If you are like me, you probably scream a bit, and then delete the paragraph and continue typing.

What you have just experienced is the automatic indenting feature in Word. It simply means that Word assumes you want to indent the paragraph if you start it out by pressing the Tab key. So, it dutifully indents for you. If you don't like this feature and want Word to accept your tabs for exactly what they are (tabs), then you need to turn off the feature by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Proofing.
  3. Click AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Set Left- and First-Indent with Tabs and Backspaces option is cleared.
  7. Click OK to dismiss the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  8. Click OK to dismiss the Word Options dialog box.

Now any new tabs that you type are nothing but lowly tabs, and you are back in control of your backspaces.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7352) 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: Controlling Automatic Indenting.

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 two less than 5?

2019-03-13 19:41:37


Just, oh my god, THANK YOU! I have been SO annoyed at this. It's distracting and frustrating to the extreme when auto formatting just decides I want to indent an entire paragraph just for funzies. I objectively should have known there was an easy fix but in my frustration couldn't find it, then here you are to save me! Thank you a million times over! You've just saved my entire college career!

2018-10-03 16:23:22


Did not work. The "Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces" was not checked, so it could not be cleared. So I checked it then cleared it, no help. Word is full of viruses, cancers and defects.

2018-08-16 06:35:55


Thank you so much! My laptop had been repaired a few days ago and every setting changed ever since, and I got frustrated at how i need to use the mouse to click and drag here and there just to fix the first line indent from the list.. Thanks again...

2018-01-09 18:06:01

Hank Foss

Thank you for this! You fixed my indenting lettering problem and it was driving me crazy.

Much appreciated!

2017-12-25 11:38:34

Castor K

This hasn't worked for me unfortunately. Every time I press enter it still automatically indents my paragraph and as one other commenter said it is part of how I type to just hit tab when I need to.

2016-07-29 10:09:59


I should have waited for the result to leave my comment!
Unfortunately removing the tick in that box did not make any difference?
I just press enter and this time the text above my insertion point is all indented to the previous paragraph!
The first line is normal and the text below is indented by one and 1/4 on the ruller.

2016-07-29 09:28:56


Thank you very much I'm writing this after removing the tick in the indent box under AutoFormat as you type.
I hope this'll work. Although you say the behaviour occurs when you press the tab. For me it occurs when I hit Enter/return. But I think this will work.
The Word help does not seem to return any result for "canceling, turning off" automatic indent.

2016-06-22 22:04:06


I had the same problem, but when I removed delete bullet lists, delete numbered lists and also format beginning of list item like the one before, all was well and no automatic indenting occurred.

2016-03-09 10:55:23


Didn't work for me.

2015-12-25 16:56:03

David Mitchell

I've tried your instructions and I still get an automatic indentation on new paragraphs. The problem is that I automatically hit the tab button so I end up with a double indentation. It's very frustrating but I'll have to try and teach myself to not hit the tab button automatically because this infernal machine insists on doing it for me. I write stories and I can fly along at a pretty good pace, but having to click enter to get my paragraph indentation right is slowing me down.

2015-12-01 10:24:27

Patrick Wilson

Did not work for me. This is so frustrating.

I am typing numbered paragraphs. I indent. Type "1. The small...." as the sentence goes on to the right margin, it auto enters to the next line down and INDENTS. I don't want it to indent. I don't want the sentence to indent all the way down the paragraph. I only want the first line to indent. I wish Microsoft would stop assuming things for us. God how do I stop this!!!

2013-06-10 21:41:52

Betty Brett

Bless you. It worked

2013-04-08 01:12:58

JB Shaik

Good tip

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