Five ways to add vertical lines in Word

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There are at least five ways to add a vertical line in Word. Vertical lines can help accentuate a piece of text in Word, but knowing how to add them is not as intuitive as adding a horizontal line.

  • Adding a border
  • Or a Page Border
  • Using the shape tool
  • Adding a bar tab
  • Adding lines to columns

These are the found most common options available.  With all the features in Word there are other more complicated choices.

Adding a Border

Add a vertical line next to a paragraph is to simply add a side border to the paragraph.

Highlight the paragraph you wish to add a line to, go to Home | Paragraph, and click the Borders dropdown.

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This gives you options to insert borders in various locations. To insert a vertical line to the left or right of the text, select Left Border or Right Border.

The Left or Right border options insert a plain black line next to the text. If you want to have more control over the color or style of your line, instead select Borders and Shading at the bottom of the list.

Custom Borders

Click Custom on the left-hand side of the dialog box, to enable you to choose individual borders to add. In the middle section, you can select the style, color and width of the line. On the right-hand side, click the box to indicate where you want the border to appear (top, bottom, left or right). The preview will give you an indication of how your line will appear.

Note that the boxes for the border positions are toggle keys, so if a border that you don’t want is appearing in the preview, just click the appropriate box to remove it.

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A line inserted by this method is anchored to the paragraph(s) it is applied to and will move if you move a paragraph.

Add a Page Border

The same thing can be done at the page level.

Design | Page Background } Page Borders | Page Border.

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Like a paragraph border, select the style of border you want then click the Preview sides.  Remove the top and bottom borders, leaving left or right depending on your needs.

Adding a Line Using the Shape Tool

To add a vertical line using the shape tool, go to Insert | Shapes and select the Line tool.

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Place the cursor where you want the line to start, and drag to where you want the other end of the line to be. Holding the Shift key while you drag will ensure that the line is straight.

Once you have finished creating the line, the Format tab becomes live on the ribbon, where you can change the color, shape and style of the line.

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Click the Layout button next to the line to see options regarding how you want the line to interact with your text.

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To move or resize the line, grab one of the end points and move it. If you hold the Control key while you move, both ends of the line will move as if around a fulcrum.

Adding a Bar Tab

Another way to add a vertical line to text is to use the Tab feature, but instead of inserting a tab, you will add a ‘bar’ or vertical line.   Bar tabs are the lesser known Tab formatting option which separate tabbed items with a visible bar like this:

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Whilst the shape tool can be used to add a line in any location and of any length, a bar tab can only be applied to whole paragraphs.

Make the ruler is visible at the top of your document, to help you find the correct position for the bar tab. If you cannot see the ruler, go to View | Show, and tick the Ruler box.

To insert a bar tab, select the paragraphs that you want the bar to appear beside, go to Home | Paragraph and open the Paragraph dialog box.  Then click the Tabs button at the bottom of the dialog box.

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Tab Stop Positions

In the Tab Stop Position box, enter the position where you want the line to appear. You can use the ruler at the top of the screen to work out what value to enter. In the example pictured, the text starts at 0 on the ruler, so if you want the line to appear to the left of the existing text, you may enter “-0.5”. If you want it to appear to the right of the text, you may enter “17”.

Then select Bar under Alignment and click OK.

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With the values entered in the above figure, the text would then look like this:

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Note that a line inserted by this method is anchored to the paragraph(s) it is applied to. If you move a paragraph around, the line will go with the paragraph to its new location.

If you wish to later delete the line, highlight the paragraph, open the tab dialog again and click Clear.

Adding Lines to Columns

If you are arranging your text into columns, you can insert a vertical line between the columns.

To arrange your text into columns, select the text, go to Layout | Columns and select the number of columns you want.

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Now that your text is arranged into columns, click anywhere within the columns, and go to Layout | Columns again, but this time select More Columns at the bottom of the list. In the dialog box, simply tick the Line Between box, and click OK.

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Note that if you wish to add a line to the left or right of the columns, this can be done using any of the other methods described above.

See Color the Column dividing line in Word

Four more vertical formatting tricks in Word


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