Strange Tab Settings in Bulleted Items

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated May 22, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365

Don often uses bullets. When he clicks on the Bullet tool on the Home tab of the ribbon, he gets a variety of choices. When he chooses one of the bullet formats, it is applied to the paragraph he's about to type. However, he can see on the ruler that the paragraph now has a right-aligned tab at the right margin of the paragraph. If he starts typing, the first letter he types is aligned to this right-margin tab and the rest of the text wraps to the next line. Don can certainly "fix" the problem by laboriously removing the tab Word puts in then going to Paragraph, Format, indicating the amount of indent he wants, and going back to the ruler and adding the proper tab. He wonders, though, how he can fix this problem permanently so that the bulleted item is properly formatted.

When you use the Bullet tool on the ribbon, Word applies a "List Paragraph" style to the paragraphs you are bulleting and creates a bulleted list. A bulleted list is a group of paragraphs that have attached the same bullet template, the group may consist of the paragraphs that you selected to apply bulleting to or is built up as you type bulleted paragraphs until you change to a non-bulleted paragraph. If you bullet some paragraphs further down the document, you create a new list.

Associated with the Bullet tool on the ribbon is a bullet template (for lack of a better term) that defines the bullet symbol, its indent, alignment and size and color. To see the available bullet templates, click the down-arrow alongside the tool. To change the Bullet tool to a new template, click the desired template symbol. To change the settings of the selected template or to create a new bullet template, click Define New Bullet.

In Don's particular case, it seems that the List Paragraph style has an unwanted tab setting in it. The short answer to the problem is to change the List Paragraph style so that it reflects how you want the bulleted lists to appear. (Display the styles list, locate the List Paragraph style, display the Modify Style dialog box for that style, and make the changes.)

If you still cannot get the Bullet tool to apply what you think should be applied, then you can try the following:

  1. Exit Word completely.
  2. Use the Windows search feature to locate the ListGal.dat file. (The file is hidden, so you'll need to make sure you can view hidden files on your system in order to find it.)
  3. Delete the ListGal.dat file or rename it to something else.
  4. Restart Word.

At this point, the gallery of bullets should be reset to its default condition.

The better solution, for the long run, is to create your own styles for your bulleted lists and stop using the Bullet tool altogether. This approach gives you full control of the paragraph layout and the bullet characteristics. For example, you might create a style called "BodyBullet." (How you create styles is covered in other issues of WordTips.) When you want a bulleted paragraph, simply click on "BodyBullet" in the Quick Style Gallery visible on the Home tab of the ribbon. You may need to create several bulleted styles for use when you want different bullet symbols or different paragraph parameters.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12580) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

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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