How to Type Text in The Margin of a Word Document

Have you ever wondered whether it's possible to type in the margin of a word document? I was the other day because I recalled seeing it in some papers and books but never on the word documents people typically type. So it turns out it's actually possible and is relatively easy to accomplish. This is how you do it:
add text in margin
Text Inside the Margin

Method 1 - Negative Indentation

[Word 2003 and later]

This method uses the indent option to move the target text past the margin. The indent buttons on the ribbon however don't accomplish this and so we need to use the paragraph settings dialog for this.

1. Select the text you need in the margin.

2. Right-click on the selected text and select Paragraph. This is the easiest way to do this plus it works in all versions of MS Word as of this writing.
Accessing paragraph settings via context menu

Alternatively, you can also click on the little arrow inside the paragraph options in the ribbon or simply head to the Page Layout tab for quick access to the indentation settings (MS Word 2007 and later only).
Accessing paragraph settings via the "small arrow"
page layout
Accessing indentation settings via Page Layout Tab

3. In the dialog under Indentation, enter a negative value inside the left box e.g. -1.75 cm, -2 cm or -2.5cm etc. then click the Ok button.
negative indent
Enter a Negative Indent

If you need the text inside the right margin instead of the left, first align the text to the right then enter a negative value in the right box e.g. -1.75 cm, -2 cm or -2.5cm etc.

Note: Don't enter a very high value (above -3 cm) as this will move the text outside the page boundary.

Method 2 - Text Box

The first method works quite quick but I realized later on that it may not be practical in most situations. Reason being, the indentation setting applies to the whole line and as such you can't add text on the same line without it being constrained to this setting. Clearly, most of us don't want this and this is where the text box comes in.
Compare: Negative Indent vs Text Box

[Word 2007/2010/2013/2016]

1. Go to the Insert tab, click the Text Box button then choose Simple Text Box.
simple text box
Simple Text Box

2. Enter and format the text you need in the margin inside the text box.

3. Drag the text box inside the margin that you want.

4. To remove the text box boundary, select the text box then switch to the Format tab in the ribbon. Now just look for Shape outline, click the small arrow beside it and select No Outline. That's it!

[Word 2003]

1. In the menu bar under Insert select Text Box.
text box word 2003
Add Text Box

2. Doing that will only insert a blank canvas. To draw a text box, click and hold inside the canvas, then drag your mouse. Release the button once the size meets your needs.
Canvas with drawn Text Box

3. Enter and format the text you need in the margin inside the text box.

4. Drag the text box inside the margin that you want. You can now delete the canvas by clicking inside it followed by pressing the Delete button on your keyboard.

Note: If you delete the canvas without moving the text box, the text box will also be deleted.

5. To remove the text box boundary, first select the text box, right-click on the boundary then select Format Text Box. You can also just double-click on the boundary.
Format Text Box

6. In the Format Text Box dialog, go to the line settings and change the colour to white. Press the Ok button and you're done!
Choose White Colour

TIP: If you've trouble following any of the steps above, here's a video tutorial to assist you.

Still having problems? Just drop me a comment below and I'll get to you as soon as I can.


Good to know your writing.