Setting Document Tabs in MS Word

​If you’ve ever typed up a résumé, chances are you’ve run into trouble with aligning text along the side of the page. In the western world, we read from the left to the right, so all of our programs and websites default to lining the text up on the left side in a nice neat line. But what if you need to set up a document (like a résumé) to have things line up on the right as well?

Setting Document Tabs in MS Word

Oct 22, 2014

If you’ve ever typed up a résumé, chances are you’ve run into trouble with aligning text along the side of the page. In the western world, we read from the left to the right, so all of our programs and websites default to lining the text up on the left side in a nice neat line. But what if you need to set up a document (like a résumé) to have things line up on the right as well?

There is a very easy way to do that in any popular word processing software. This short tutorial will demonstrate how to set up tabs in your document so that your text lines up on the right side as well as the left.

Let’s take a look at my friend John’s résumé. He is clearly a very bright young man, graduating at the top of his class from both Yale and MIT. Good job John! But take a closer look at the education he has listed on his résumé. Everything may look fine, but upon closer inspection, there’s a simple error of lining up text on the right side of the page.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it looks sloppy. How can we fix it? Let’s look under the hood for a moment.

Here we see that John has been trying to line things up using tabs and spaces. He has the right idea, but he’s not quite there. You may be wondering where these little dots and arrows came from. I’ll let you in on a little secret, they’re in every single word document you write, you just can’t see them. How do you make them visible? Just select the ¶ symbol from your menu bar. Just like that you can see every space, tab, page break…it’s all there.

Now back to John’s résumé. We’ve seen the problem, now we need to fix it. You probably see a ruler at the top of your Word screen. If not, left-click on the ruler icon at the top right.

Once you have your ruler, direct your attention to the top left part of the screen. There should be a little icon there with what looks like an “L” inside. Left-click on that icon a few times and watch what happens. That icon allows you to change the type of tab you will place on the ruler. Keep clicking until it looks like a backwards “L”.

Next, highlight the lines that you want to apply the tab to. For John’s résumé, he highlighted the first two lines of each school he attended.
Since he needs them to line up on the far right side of the page, John left-clicked right next to the edge of his margin. Don’t worry if you can’t it right on the edge, you can left-click and drag it along the ruler to the exact place you need it.

Oops! This doesn’t look like what you wanted. It’s even worse than before you started!

Relax. Everything is under control. You and John just have extra tabs in place from when you were trying to fudge things using the tab key and spaces. Let’s get rid of some of those extras. Highlight everything from the end of the text in the first line, to the beginning of the text you want to be right aligned on the same line.

Press Backspace or Delete. You now have no space between your text.

Press Tab.

Just like that, you’re text is aligned on the right side of the page, with just one tab.

Do the same for the next line.

And you’re starting to see things line up on the right side.

Complete the process for the other two lines you selected at first.

Turn off your formatting marks by clicking the symbol.

Now everything is nicely aligned on the right side of the page.


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