PowerPoint 2016: Indents and Line Spacing

Indents and line spacing are useful formatting options in PowerPoint that can improve the readability and appearance of text. Here is an overview of working with indents and line spacing in PowerPoint 2016.


Indents allow you to inset text from the slide margins. Common uses of indents in PowerPoint include:

  • Creating nested bullet points or multi-level lists
  • Visually separating text blocks or callout text boxes from slide edges
  • Adding structure through paragraph indentation

There are a few ways to add indents in PowerPoint slides:

Quick Indents

Select the text you want to indent and click the Increase Indent or Decrease Indent buttons on the Home tab. Each click shifts text 0.5 inches left or right.

Precise Indents with Ruler

  1. Show the ruler by going to View > Show > Ruler.
  2. On the ruler, drag the indent markers to desired positions.
    • First Line Indent – indents only the first line
    • Hanging Indent – indents all but the first line

Custom Indents in Dialog Box

  1. Select text.
  2. Go to Home > open the Paragraph dialog box.
  3. Under Indentation, set desired values for Before Text and other options.

Use a negative value for Before Text to create a hanging indent.

Line Spacing

Adjusting line spacing changes the distance between baselines of text lines. It impacts readability and how much text fits on a slide.

Ways to set line spacing:

  • Home tab > Line Spacing button
    • Options: 1, 1.5, 2, Line Spacing Options
  • Line Spacing Options dialog box
    • Precisely control spacing before/after paragraphs
    • Set spacing amount in points
    • See preview before applying

Tips for line spacing:

  • Add space between paragraphs, not lines, for visual separation
  • Too much spacing can reduce amount of text per slide
  • Be consistent with spacing for professional look
  • Use Line Spacing Options for precision

Formatting Lists

Lists formatted with indents, custom bullets, and line spacing can stand out:

Indent entire list:

Home tab > Increase List Level/Decrease List Level buttons

Customize individual levels:

Right-click list > Change Bullet/Number > Define New Bullet/Number

Reduce between-bullet spacing:

Line Spacing Options > set Before/After spacing

Formatting Text Boxes

Text box alignment, indents, tabs, and line spacing help fit text boxes into slides:

Align text box:

Format tab > Align > set left/right paragraph alignment

Add first-line indent:

Home tab > open Paragraph dialog box > Indentation > Special > First line

Customize tab stops:

View tab > Show > Ruler > add/edit tab stops on ruler

Set precise line spacing:

Home tab > Line Spacing Options > Spacing

Tips for Better Formatting

Follow these tips when working with indents and line spacing in PowerPoint:

  • Use consistent spacing and alignment across slides and text boxes
  • Avoid excessive spacing reductions to prevent cramped text
  • Emphasize hierarchy with nested indents in multi-level bullet lists
  • Set first-line indents or hanging indents to make text stand out
  • Add space between paragraphs instead of lines for better flow
  • View changes on the preview before closing dialog boxes

Fine-tuning indents, tabs, spacing, and alignment takes content hierarchy, readability, and slide design into account. A few small tweaks can make your text appear clean, polished, and professional.

Common Uses for Indents and Line Spacing

Here are some ways presenters use indents and line spacing to enhance PowerPoint slides:

Emphasize Key Points

Increase line spacing after bullet points or list items you want to highlight. This adds emphasis by isolating important lines visually.

Improve Readability

If text looks cramped, increase line spacing globally or for crowded paragraphs. Don’t overdo it though—go up incrementally until it appears readable.

Pack in More Lines

When trying to fit more lines on a crowded slide, reduce line spacing slightly. This works best for bulleted lists. Make sure text doesn’t become hard to read.

Align Text Boxes

Use paragraph indentation and first-line indents to align text boxes with slide edges and background graphics.

Add Visual Interest

Subtle changes to line spacing and indentation creates visual rhythm and breaks up monotony. Moderate variation looks polished.

Guide the Eye

Leading the eye down a slide is crucial for presentations. Use indents, spacing, and alignment consistently to facilitate smooth scanning.


The ability to format paragraphs with precise indents and line spacing helps presenters optimize text and lists on slides. When used effectively as part of a larger formatting strategy, these tools improve slide aesthetics and keep audiences focused on key messaging.

Mastering indents and line spacing in PowerPoint takes experimentation to find the right balance for each slide. The payoff is text that looks clean, reads smoothly, and makes the right impact during a presentation.