How to apply both left and right alignment to text without using a table in Word


You don’t need a table to apply left and right alignment to the same line of text in Microsoft Word if you know this simple trick.

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Illustration: Lisa Hornung, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Applying separate right and left alignment to the same line of text is impossible in Word; the format goes with the entire line. Usually, when you need that kind of arrangement, you might insert a table with two or more cells and apply the alignments to the cells. It works and it’s easy, but you have to insert a table every time one of these lines occurs. In this article, I’ll show you another way that might be easier. Knowing both ways lends a bit of flexibility so you can choose what works best within any given situation.

SEE: How Apple users can make the most of Microsoft 365 at work (TechRepublic Premium)

I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use earlier versions. There’s no demonstration file: You won’t need one. This technique isn’t appropriate for the browser edition: It won’t let you set a tab, and it won’t display pre-existing tabs correctly, within the context of this technique.

If you’re not familiar with tabs, try reading Learning how to use tabs correctly is the best way to ensure that columnar data stays where you put it. However, you won’t need to read it to work through this article.

About Word alignment options

You probably already know about Word’s four alignment choices: left, center, right, and flush. You’ll find them in the Paragraph group on the Home tab. Figure A shows an example of all four. As mentioned, there’s no option that allows left and right on the same line. It is possible though, using a right-aligned tab.

Figure A

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  These are the four alignment options offered by Word.

About aligned tabs

An aligned tab is exactly what it sounds like. It lets you determine the alignment of text with a tab. With tabs, you have five options:

  • Left: Left-aligns text to the tab.
  • Center: Centers the text within the tab.
  • Right: Right-aligns text to the tab.
  • Decimal: Aligns decimal numbers by an entered decimal point.
  • Bar: Draws a vertical line.

We’re going to apply the left-aligned property to the text. Then, we’ll use a right-aligned tab to right-align a portion of that text. 

How to set a right-aligned tab

Before setting the tab, check the document’s margins. If you’re using the out-of-the-box Normal template, the right and left margins are both 1 inch, as shown in Figure B. However, if you look at the right margin on the ruler, you’ll find that it’s set at 6.5, not 7.5. (That position is determined by your printer if different.) Remember that margin (it might be different for you). You’ll set the right-aligned tab to the same position as that default right margin.

Figure B

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  Find the right margin.

Now, let’s create that right-aligned tab as follows:

  1. On the Home tab, click the Paragraph group’s dialog launcher and then click Tabs in the bottom-left corner.
  2. Enter 6.5 in the Tab stop position.
  3. Click Right in the Alignment section (Figure C).
  4. Click Set.
  5. Click OK.

Figure C

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  Create a right-aligned tab.

Now let’s try it out. Enter some text, such as This line is both left and right aligned. The line is left-aligned by default. Click to the left of the text you want to right align. For this example, click to the left of “right-aligned,” and press Tab. Figure D shows the results of using the right-aligned tab to push part of the text to the right margin. It doesn’t matter how much text you push to the right, the tab will align it perfectly. 

Figure D

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Use the tab to right-align text on the same line as left-aligned text.

If you have to set this up only once, it really isn’t superior to a table. However, if you’re going to have several lines that require both left and right aligned text, it is better than a table because you only have to set the right-aligned tab once to use it again and again. If you don’t get similar results, check your right margin again (see Figure B) and make sure you entered the same measurement when creating the right-aligned tab.

Stay tuned

In an upcoming article, I’ll show you how to do the same thing using a table for those times when setting a right-aligned tab are inconvenient.

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