Adjust paragraph spacing

You can control the amount of space between paragraphs. If a paragraph begins at the top of a column or frame, InDesign does not honor the Space Before value. In such a case, you can increase the leading of the first line of the paragraph or increase the top inset of the text frame in InDesign.

  1. Select text.
  2. In the Paragraph panel or the Control panel, adjust the appropriate values for Space Before  and Space After .


To ensure formatting consistency, change paragraph spacing in the paragraph styles you define.

Use drop caps

You can add drop caps to one or more paragraphs at a time. The drop cap’s baseline sits one or more lines below the baseline of the first line of a paragraph.

You can also create a character style that can be applied to the drop‑cap characters. For example, you can create a tall cap (also called a raised cap) by specifying a 1‑line, 1‑character drop cap and applying a character style that increases the size of the first letter.

Use drop caps
One-character, three-line drop cap (left), and five-character, two-line drop cap (right)

Create a drop cap

  1. With the Type tool  selected, click in the paragraph where you want the drop cap to appear.
  2. In the Paragraph panel or Control panel, type a number for Drop Cap Number Of Lines  to indicate the number of lines you want the drop cap to occupy.
  3. For Drop Cap One Or More Characters , type the number of drop cap characters you want.
  4. To apply a character style to the drop cap character, choose Drop Caps And Nested Styles from the Paragraph panel menu, and then choose the character style you created.


    You can also use the Drop Caps And Nested Styles dialog box to align the drop cap to the text edge, reducing the amount of space on the left side of the drop cap, and adjust for drop cap letters with descenders, such as “g” and “y.” If you want to resize, skew, or change the typeface of the drop cap letter for added effect, select the letter or letters and make the formatting changes.

Remove a drop cap

  1. With the Type tool  selected, click in the paragraph where the drop cap appears.
  2. In the Paragraph panel or Control panel, type 0 for Drop Cap Number Of Lines or Drop Cap Number Of Characters.

Add rules (lines) above or below paragraphs

Rules are paragraph attributes that move and are resized along with the paragraph on the page. If you’re using a rule with headings in your document, you may want to make the rule part of a paragraph style definition. The width of the rule is determined by the column width.

The offset for a rule above a paragraph is measured from the baseline of the top line of text to the bottom of the rule. The offset for a rule below a paragraph is measured from the baseline of the last line of text to the top of the rule.

Placement of rules
Placement of rules

A. Rule above paragraph B. Rule below paragraph 

Michael Murphy provides a video tutorial about creating special effects using paragraph rules at Paragraph Rules Rule.

Creative Curio provides an article about creative uses of paragraph rules at Creative Uses for Paragraph Rules in InDesign, Pt 1.

Add a rule above or below a paragraph

  1. Select text.
  2. Choose Paragraph Rules from the Paragraph panel menu or Control panel menu.
  3. At the top of the Paragraph Rule dialog box, select Rule Above or Rule Below.
  4. Select Rule On.


    If you want both a rule above and below, make sure that Rule On is selected for both Rule Above and Rule Below.

  5. Select Preview to see what the rule will look like.
  6. For Weight, choose a weight or type a value to determine the thickness of the rule. For Rule Above, increasing the weight expands the rule upwards. For Rule Below, increasing the weight expands the rule downward.
  7. Select Overprint Stroke when you want to make sure that the stroke doesn’t knock out underlying inks on a printing press.
  8. Do one or both of the following:
    • Choose a color. The available colors are those listed in the Swatches panel. Select the Text Color option to make the rule the same color as the first character in the paragraph for Rule Above and the last character for Rule Below.

    • Choose a tint or specify a tint value. The tint is based on the color you specified. Note that you can’t create tints of the built-in colors None, Paper, Registration, or Text Color.

    • If you specified any line type other than solid, choose a gap color or gap tint to change the appearance of the area between dashes, dots, or lines.

  9. Choose the width of the rule. You can choose either Text (from the left edge of text to the line end) or Column (from the left edge of the column to the right edge of the column). If the left edge of the frame has a column inset, the rule begins at the inset.
  10. To determine the vertical position of the rule, type a value for Offset.
  11. To make sure that the rule above text is drawn within the text frame, select Keep In Frame. If this option isn’t selected, the rule can appear outside the text frame.


    To make sure the paragraph rule at the top of one column aligns with the text at the top of the adjacent column, select Keep In Frame.

  12. Set left or right indents for the rule (not for text) by typing values for Left Indent and Right Indent.
  13. Select Overprint Stroke if the paragraph rule will be printed over another color and you want to avoid errors that can occur with printing misregistration. Then click OK.

Remove a paragraph rule

  1. Using the Type tool , click in the paragraph containing the paragraph rule.
  2. Choose Paragraph Rules from the Paragraph panel menu or Control panel menu.
  3. Deselect Rule On and click OK.

Ways to control paragraph breaks

You can eliminate orphans and widows, words or single lines of text that become separated from the other lines in a paragraph. Orphans fall at the bottom of a column or page, and widows fall at the top of a column or page. Another typographic problem to avoid is a heading that stands alone on a page with the following paragraph on the next page. You have several options for fixing widows, orphans, short exit lines, and other paragraph break problems:

Discretionary hyphens

A discretionary hyphen (Type > Insert Special Character > Hyphens And Dashes > Discretionary Hyphen) appears only if the word breaks. This option prevents the common typographic problem of hyphenated words, such as “care-giver,” appearing in the middle of a line after text reflows. Similarly, you can also add a discretionary line break character.

No Break

Choose No Break from the Character panel menu to prevent selected text from breaking across a line.

Nonbreaking spaces

Insert a nonbreaking space (Type > Insert White Space > [nonbreaking space]) between words you want to keep together.

Keep Options

Choose Keep Options from the Paragraph panel menu to specify how many lines in the following paragraph remain with the current paragraph.

Start Paragraph

Use Start Paragraph in the Keep Options dialog box to force a paragraph (usually a title or heading) to appear at the top of a page, column, or section. This option works especially well as part of a heading paragraph style.

Hyphenation Settings

Choose Hyphenation from the Paragraph panel menu to change hyphenation settings.

Edit text

Editing text may not be an option depending on the kind of document you work with. If you have license to rewrite, then subtle rewording can often create a better line break.

Use a different composer

In general, use Adobe Paragraph Composer to let InDesign compose paragraphs automatically. If a paragraph isn’t composed the way you’d like, choose Adobe Single-line Composer from the Paragraph panel menu or Control panel menu and adjust selected lines individually. See Compose text.

Control paragraph breaks using Keep Options

You can specify how many lines of the following paragraph remain with the current paragraph as it moves between frames—a convenient way to ensure that headings don’t become isolated from the body text they introduce. InDesign can highlight the paragraphs that sometimes break in violation of your settings.

You may not want to use Keep Options if your document does not require your columns to share the same last baseline.


To highlight paragraphs that violate Keep Options, choose Edit > Preferences > Composition (Windows) or InDesign > Preferences > Composition (Mac OS), select Keep Violations, and click OK.

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs you want to affect.
  2. Choose Keep Options in the Paragraph panel menu or Control panel menu. (You can also change keep options when creating or editing a paragraph style.)
  3. Choose Keep Options in the Paragraph panel menu. (You can also change keep options when creating or editing a paragraph style.)
  4. Select any of these options and then click OK:
    • Select Keep With Previous to keep the first line of the current paragraph with the last line of the previous paragraph.

    • For Keep With Next _ Lines, specify the number of lines (up to five) of the subsequent paragraph that the last line of the current paragraph stays with. This option is especially useful for making sure that a heading stays with the next few lines of the paragraph that follows it.

    • Select the Keep Lines Together option and select All Lines In Paragraph to prevent the paragraph from breaking.

    • Select the Keep Lines Together option, select At Start/End Of Paragraph, and specify the number of lines that must appear at the beginning or ending of the paragraph to prevent orphans and widows.

    • For Start Paragraph, choose an option to force InDesign to push the paragraph to the next column, frame, or page. If Anywhere is selected, the start position is determined by the Keep Line Settings option. For other options, they will be forced to start from these positions.


When you create paragraph styles for headings, use the Keep Options panel to make sure that your headings remain with the paragraph that follows them.

Create hanging punctuation

Punctuation marks and letters such as “W” can make the left or right edges of a column appear to be misaligned. Optical Margin Alignment controls whether punctuation marks (such as periods, commas, quotation marks, and dashes) and edges of letters (such as W and A) hang outside the text margins, so that the type looks aligned.

Create hanging punctuation
Before (left) and after (right) applying Optical Margin Alignment

  1. Select a text frame, or click anywhere in the story.
  2. Choose Type > Story.
  3. Select Optical Margin Alignment.
  4. Select a font size to set the appropriate amount of overhang for the size of type in your story. For optimal results, use the same size as the text.


To turn off Optical Margin Alignment for an individual paragraph, choose Ignore Optical Margin from the Paragraph panel menu or Control panel menu.

Create a shade (or color) behind a paragraph

  1. To apply paragraph shading to the text in a text frame, select the text frame.

    Or place the pointer on the text in the text frame.

  2. Open the Paragraph Shading dialog.

    From the Paragraph panel (Window > Type and Tables > Paragraph) flyout menu, choose Paragraph Shading.


    The following options are also available from the Paragraph Shading tab of the Paragraph Style Options dialog. To open this dialog, from the Paragraph Style panel (Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles) flyout menu, choose Style Options.

  3. In the Paragraph Shading dialog, choose the following options:

    Paragraph shading dialog box
    A. Shading color B. Shading tint C. Apply overprint D. Extend shade beyond the top margin E. Extend shade beyond the left margin F. Extend shade beyond the bottom margin G. Extend shade beyond the right margin H. (Default Ascent) Top Edge of shading for a particular paragraph I. (Default Descent) Bottom Edge of shading for a particular paragraph J. Column: Span shade across text frame. Text: Extend shade across text. K. Shading will be clipped at the edges of the frame L. Shading will be ignored if document is printed or exported it to formats (such PDF, Epub, Jpeg, and PNG) 


    The Top Edge defaults to EmBox Top and the Bottom Edge defaults to EmBox bottom, respectively for the Japanese Feature set.

  4. Check the Chain button to ensure that all offset values remain the same. If you change the value of one offset, all other values are updated.

    To create varying offset values, ensure the chain button in unchecked.

  5. Click OK.

The shade extends over the text in the text frame. It does not extend across the entire text frame.

Shaded text box

Also, the Clip To Frame option is best suited for non-rectangular text frames.

Shaded text box

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