Answered By: Elaine M. Patton
Last Updated: Apr 08, 2022     Views: 567

All three major citation styles (MLA, APA, and Chicago) want a hanging indent for the full citation list that comes at the end of your paper. Your citations would each follow the shape of the shaded area below:


This is so your reader can easily match sources to your parenthetical citations (which are whatever sticks out first on the little tail) without having to read deeper into the citations, and this way each citation is visually distinct from the others in the list.


In Microsoft Word, you have a few ways of creating this hanging indent.

1. Ctrl + T  (or Cmd + T)

The absolute fastest and easiest way!

  1. Highlight your citation(s).
  2. Hit Ctrl + T (or in you're on a Mac, Command + T).
  3. Bam. It should automatically format the citation with the correct half-inch indent.


2. Paragraph Settings (or Line Spacing Options)

If something goes wrong -- like you do the shortcut but the indent is the wrong size -- or keyboard shortcuts just aren't your thing, try this out. Two different places to click, but same settings panel.

  1. Highlight your citation(s).
  2. Look at the cluster of Paragraph options in the Word toolbar, just to the right of your regular font settings. You can open up Paragraph Settings with (a) the little arrow at the bottom-right of that space, or you can (b) choose Line Spacing Options from the spacing button.
    (a) Word paragraph options cluster with the small arrow at the bottom right, which opens Paragraph Settings, circled in red.   (b)Line Spacing button in the Paragraph Cluster in Word is circled, with the menu extended. After the spacing choices (1.0, 1.5, and so on) is the "Line Spacing Options" choice, which also opens up the paragraph settings detailed menu.
  3. Choose Indentation: Special and make sure it's set to 0.5". (While you're there, you might as well make sure line spacing is set to double with 0 extra spacing before or after.) (Unless you're doing Chicago Style, in which case you want single space with space after.)  
    Paragraph Settings dialog window, with indentation set to hanging with 0.5" space. Arrows point out the other important spacing options for double and 0 points of space after (or check the box to not add space between paragraphs)


3. Manually Hitting Enter and Tab, or Dragging the Ruler

You can...but you shouldn't. It's not as easy/efficient as the actual, official hanging indent options described above. Plus, if you have to make any changes that lengthen or shorten the citation, you have to do a lot more reformatting! With the other way, the citation will shift in place to keep the hanging indent shape. Better!


What if I'm using something other than Word on Windows to write?

Well, you can try submitting a new question for us about whatever specific program you're in. :)

Generally speaking, though, look for the options relating to formatting paragraphs, and/or then look for indentation options. These might be located in different exact spots, but that's the overall category of settings you're aiming for.

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