Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Compound List Formatting.

Compound List Formatting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 11, 2015)

It is often quite handy to create lists of information that can be used in your documents. One sign of how popular (and common) lists are is Word's inclusion of the Numbering and Bullets tools on the formatting toolbar.

You may, however, want to create what I call a "compound format" for your lists. For instance, you may want the first word, phrase or sentence of each list item shown in bold, or in bold italics. This is very common when using list items to define terms, such as in a glossary. The term being defined is shown in bold type, followed by a period, and then followed by a definition in regular type.

The next time you have a need to create lists that use "compound formatting" of this type, try out the following steps:

  1. Position the insertion point where you want to start your list.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon at the lower-right corner of the Paragraph group. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Indents and Spacing tab of the Paragraph dialog box.

  5. Using the Special drop-down list, choose Hanging.
  6. In the By box to the right of the Special drop-down list, type a value that indicates what sort of hanging indent you want. If you don't really want a hanging indent, then enter the value .001. (It is important you do this, even if you don't want a hanging indent.)
  7. Click on OK to dismiss the Paragraph dialog box.
  8. Select the formatting you want applied to the word, phrase, or term. For instance, click on the Bold formatting tool on the Home tab of the ribbon.
  9. Type the word, phrase, or term. Terminate the word, phrase or term with a period, colon, semi-colon, exclamation mark, question mark, or dash.
  10. Turn off the formatting you turned on in step 7.
  11. Type the rest of your list item. For instance, type the definition for the word, phrase, or sentence you typed earlier. This typing should appear in your regular typeface.
  12. At the end of the item, press Enter.

Now, when you start typing again, the first word, phrase, or sentence of the next list item—everything up to a valid terminator (see step 8)—uses the formatting you set in step 7, and the rest of the list item uses regular type.

If you try these steps on your system and they do not work, then check this out:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 and Word 2013 click the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Make sure that Proofing is selected at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is displayed. (See Figure 2.)
  5. Figure 2. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Format Beginning of List Item Like the One Before It check box is selected.
  7. Click on OK.

If the check box noted in step 5 is not selected, the steps presented earlier in this tip will not work.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10441) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Compound List Formatting.

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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