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Tips for Formatting Your Paper in Word

Hanging indents, changing margins, running headers--get tips for the top formatting questions.

COM Students Get Microsoft Office 365 Free!

COM students, faculty and staff can get Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus free for their computers and mobile devices! Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription model that will last as long as you are associated with the College.


Get Microsoft Office 365 for your PC or MAC. Here's how:

  1. Go to the Office 365 portal.
  2. Click the Find out if you’re eligible button, enter your COM email address (must be your COM email to receive free).
  3. Hit Sign up to receive the Microsoft Office 365 team email to complete your verification.
  4. Follow the link in your email, fill out the form and hit Start
  5. When prompted, click Install Now and follow the installation wizard.
    • Mac OS X: wait until the executable package downloads, then double click on it and follow the installation wizard’s instructions.

From any Office application (Word, Excel, Power Point), choose Sign in to an existing Office 365 subscription.

Create a Hanging Indent in Word on PC

You'll need to use a hanging indent for block quotations and your MLA style Works Cited or APA style References page. Once you know the trick, it's easier done than said:*

  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of your citation, before any text.
  2. Right click your mouse.
  3. Select Paragraph from the resulting pop up menu.
  4. Under Indentation, use the Special pull-down menu to select hanging.
  5. Use the By menu to select 0.5".

To Apply Formatting to Multiple Citations

  1. Once you've applied the hanging indent using the technique above to your 1st citation, hit enter after the citation.
  2. If you are typing in your citation, Word will keep the same formatting, but most people paste in their citations, and that's where the trick comes in. You have to paste by right clicking and selecting the paste as text option (looks like a A on clipboard, see image below) so that Word can automatically apply all the formatting you've already done, including hanging indent, spacing, font, etc. Alternatively you could wait until all your citations are on your bib, highlight them all at once, then use the first 5 steps as listed above.

* These instructions are designed for use with Word on a PC, see below for instructions on a device

Create a Hanging Indent in Word on a Device

There is a way to create a hanging indent in Word on your device. The key is to rotate the screen to landscape mode so you can see the available options (see images below to see the difference). Here are the steps:

  1. Once you have typed in the text you want for your block quote, tap enter/return before the first word of the quote and after the last word of the quote.
  2. Highlight the text that you want to indent.
  3. Rotate your device so that you're viewing it in landscape mode.
  4. Choose the indent option and you're good. If for some reason you can't do that, you'll have to tap the dot options that represent more menu options, but that will take more steps.

View in Landscape Mode


View In Portrait Mode

Create a Block Quote


APA requires that any quotation over 40 words be started on a new line, indented .5 inches from the margin, double spaced without quotation marks, essentially a block quote. Here's how:

  1. Hit enter before the first word of the quote, and after the last word of the quote
  2. Highlight the text
  3. Right click and select paragraph
  4. Under indent change left to .5"


MLA requires that any quotation over 4 lines (or 3 lines of verse) be started on a new line, indented 1 inch from the margin, double spaced without quotation marks, essentially a block quote. Here's how:

  1. Hit enter before the first word of the quote, and after the last word of the quote
  2. Highlight the text
  3. Right click and select paragraph
  4. Under indent change left to 1"

Spell & Grammar Check

Word cannot catch all mistakes and does not replace reading your paper, but using the spelling and grammar tools in Word can really save you time! Here's how:

  1. In the Ribbon, click on Review and select Spelling & Grammar.
  2. Word will now review your paper for spelling and grammar. If the program finds spelling mistakes, a dialog box or task pane appears with the first misspelled word found by the spelling checker.
  3. After you resolve each misspelled word, the program flags the next misspelled word so that you can decide what you want to do.
  4. After the program finishes flagging the spelling mistakes, it shows you the grammar mistakes. For each mistake, click an option in the Spelling and Grammar dialog box.
  5. You're done!

Double Space

Here's how to double space in Word:

  1. Highlight the text you want to double space.
  2. Right click
  3. Select Paragraph
  4. Under Line spacing, use the pull down menu to choose Double.

If you want single space, use the same technique but choose single.

It's that easy!

Alphabetize a List

This technique can be used to alphabetize the sources on your Works Cited or References page.

  1. In your Word document, highlight your list.
  2. In the ribbon, go to the Paragraph group and select AZ Sort.


  1. In the dialog box, under Sort by, Paragraphs and Text, select Ascending to sort alphabetically, A-Z and hit OK. It's that simple!