Consistent Tabs Across Paragraphs: MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

When you select anywhere inside a paragraph, Word's ruler bar shows the tab settings for that paragraph.

If you select multiple paragraphs, however, the tabs on the ruler bar may be grayed out. This occurs when the paragraphs have different tab settings. In almost any case, an option that is grayed-out infers that the "option" (whatever it may be) is unavailable. With a grayed-out tab, however, that is not the case.

One way to set consistent tabs for multiple paragraphs is to select [highlight] the paragraphs and then use the Format | Tabs command from the main menu.

To do so:

  1. Double-click any of the grayed-out tab marks you see on the ruler; this will open the Tabs dialog box.
  2. Click the Clear All button to remove all tabs.
  3. Set the tab stop position(s), and then click on OK.

Remember -- just because the tabs are grayed out does not mean you can't add new tabs to multiple paragraphs at once. With your paragraphs selected (highlighted):

  1. Choose the type of tab you want (hint: click on the tab icon at the far left of the ruler line to move through the tab options).
  2. Click on the desired position on the ruler bar to set the tab. The new tab will appear in light gray, and it's set in the selected paragraphs.

You can also control the placement of existing tabs (to an extent).

For example, suppose you have two paragraphs. In the first, you've positioned a left tab half an inch from the left margin. In the second paragraph you've positioned a left tab two inches from the left margin.

When you select both paragraphs, you'll see only the tab settings for the first paragraph. You can now drag that half-in-from-the-left tab marker to reposition it (to the one-inch position, for example), and in doing so you'll change the position of that tab in the first paragraph and add the tab to the second paragraph.

If paragraphs share a tab setting, you can change the tab's location by selecting the paragraphs and then dragging the grayed-out tab mark along the ruler bar, or remove it by dragging it off the ruler bar. The tab's position in both paragraphs is now changed (or removed).

Good luck!

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