bulleted lists and hanging indents in Indesign CS

newbie_chez's picture


I recently started working as a typesetter on study guides for insurance exams. I am working mostly with pre-set styles, but there is a lot of tweaking needed to make the formatting right.

One of the problems I am having is with bulleted lists. There is already a style set up for the right bulleted list.

However, in these bulleted lists are also sub lists with en dashes. I cannot make the rest of the paragraph indent properly.


o Item one
o Item two
- for example the second line
does not line up with the 1st line indent.

o Item one
- Does anyone know how to make the
rest of the paragraph indent.

Also if there is a way to set a style for these en dash - sub-points please let me know.

If anyone knows any good resources especially to do with hanging indents, setting tabs, and lists in Indesign CS I would be grateful.

Mark Simonson's picture

Here's a quick-and-dirty way to line up the second line:

Place your text insertion point after the space (after the bullet) and do command-\ (Mac). Note: The subsequent lines must be part of the same paragraph, so if you force a line break, be sure it is a soft line break (shift-return).

The same thing works in Quark--Adobe copied it from them.

There is probably a way to make this part of a style sheet, but I'm not sure off the top of my head.

newbie_chez's picture


pica pusher's picture

For future reference, to make this part of a style, in nested styles you can choose "[indent to here]" in the character drop-down.

For my money the indent-to-here character is even better than a hanging indent, since it turns a set of regular tabs into an indent grid without needing more than one or two styles.

newbie_chez's picture

Hi there,

I am going to try that Indent to Here tomorrow at work.

I guess it does get a little easier every day, but we can never be too meticulous.

elliot100's picture

I thought the standard technique was to set up your styles:

1st level bullet:
Left indent 5mm
First line indent -5mm

2nd level bullet:
Left indent 10mm
First line indent -5mm

Then start each bulleted item with the bullet character followed by a tab character which will automatically indent to the value of your left indent. You don't need to set tab positions in the styles.

AFAIK this works in Quark, Indesign, Word

Mark Simonson's picture

The main advantage of that way (over the "Indent to Here" method) is that it gives you better control over the space between the bullet and the text. It's smarter but takes a bit more work. I find I use the "Indent to Here" more frequently because it's so simple to do.

(I just remembered that Quark was not the first to use this idea. A Compugraphic typesetting machine I worked with in the early eighties had a feature that functioned the same way. There was a special character code that could be inserted in a line. Subsequent lines would indent to that spot.)

Nick Shinn's picture

I often use Mark's rough-and-ready technique, but it can flummox others who may later work on the file.

mwebert's picture

Personally, I just set up a bunch of L & R justified tabs... one for the bullet, one for the text, etc.


// love what you do or do something else. //
Michael Ebert -- graphic designer, jazz saxophonist, horror movie devotee

pica pusher's picture

Just for argument's sake, here's three bulletted list paragraphs.

In the first and second paragraphs, the bullet is separated from the following text by a tab. In the third paragraph, the bullet is separated from the following text by a wordspace.

In the first paragraph, the hanging indent is accomplished by a paragraph indent and a first-line outdent. In the second and third paragraphs, the hang is accomplished with an indent-to-here character before the first character of Text.

Obviously, the tab gives you more control over the amount of space between bullet and text. And at this point, you've made the compositors' job very simple—all they have to do is put a tab between the bullet and the text, and they don't have to worry about any finnicky hidden characters. Unfortunately, look what happens when some nutcase gets ahold of it and starts using text wrapping:

You'll notice the space+indent-to-here character combo maintains its formatting quite nicely, while the tabs and indents get demolished.

elliot100's picture

I never realised that that would solve that wrapping problem! Elegantly explained.

timd's picture

And by using a flexi-space (I believe such things are available in InDesign as well as Quark) you can create a nice wide space from bullet to text, you can also use double or triple word spaces but that smacks of the amateur.

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