Promoting or Demoting Numbered Paragraphs (Word 2007 and Word 2010)

March 7, 2010 at 8:19 pm

When you are using either an outline-numbered list or a simple list, you can change the level of a numbered paragraph in several different ways. All involve increasing or decreasing the indent of the paragraph.

Note that increasing the indent of a numbered paragraph often is referred to as “demoting” a paragraph level (since it creates a subordinate paragraph), while decreasing the indent of a numbered paragraph often is referred to as “promoting” a paragraph level (since it creates a superordinate paragraph).

One easy way to promote or demote a numbered paragraph is by using the “Decrease Indentbutton or the “Increase Indentbutton in the top row of the Paragraph group in the Home tab. Assuming you are using automatic paragraph numbering of some sort, that method should work 100% of the time. Each time you press the button, Word promotes or demotes the paragraph your cursor is in one more level.

Another method to change a paragraph’s level is by using the Tab key (to demote the paragraph) or Shift Tab (to promote it). Note, however, that this method won’t work unless your copy of Word is configured so that the Tab key sets indents. This feature can be enabled or disabled in Word 2007 by clicking the Office button, Word Options, Proofing, AutoCorrect Options…, AutoFormat As You Type, and either checking or unchecking the box next to “Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces,” then clicking OK to save your changes. (In Word 2010, click the File tab, Options, Proofing, AutoCorrect Options…, AutoFormat As You Type, and then check or uncheck “Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces.” Be sure to click OK to save your changes.)

CAUTION: When this option is enabled, pressing the Tab key turns a regular left tab into an automatic first-line indent. When that happens, you can’t simply get rid of the tab by pressing the Backspace key. Rather, you need to go into the Paragraph dialog, navigate to “Special,” change “First line indent” to “(none)” (i.e., no indent), and OK out of the dialog. If you would rather that the Tab key work as it does in other programs, don’t enable this option.

If you choose not to enable “Set left and first indents with tabs and backspaces,” you can use a different keyboard shortcut to promote and demote numbered paragraphs: Alt Shift ← (left arrow key) to promote or Alt Shift → (right arrow key) to demote.

There’s a fourth method: Right-click in or near the automatic number code for the paragraph you wish to promote or demote, then click the “Decrease Indent” or “Increase Indent” command. This method can be somewhat tricky; occasionally, Word changes the indents of all paragraphs that are the same level as the one you are attempting to promote or demote.

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