How to Insert a Horizontal or Vertical Line in Microsoft Word

Lines are an essential design element. In Microsoft Word, a horizontal or vertical line can divide a document and tutorial the flow of the text. You can insert a line in Word and format it differently to change a humble line into something more appealing.

It’s so simple, after all. But if you don’t know all the ways to do it, then this primer on how to insert a line in Word is for you.

How Do You Insert a Straight Line in Word With the Keyboard?

Did you know that you can quickly add a line in Word by typing a few characters? Word’s AutoFormat feature types stuff for you as you type it. You may have already seen it in action when it creates automatic bulleted lists.

You can insert not only a straight line but also add lines with different designs. Here’s how it works:

  1. Place the cursor in the spot where you would like to start your horizontal line.
  2. Then, type three characters for any possible line styles you see in the screenshot below—press Enter. For example, to draw a dotted line, type *** and press Enter.

Different types of AutoFormatted Lines in Word

As you will see, you will get six variations of the standard horizontal line.

  • Plain single line with three hyphens (—)
  • Broken or dotted line with three asterisks (***)
  • Plain double line with three equal signs (===)
  • Bold single line with three underline symbols (___)
  • Triple line with a thick center with Three number signs (###)
  • Wavy line with three tildes (~~~)

The line takes up the entire width of the page. When added inside a column, the line is inserted to match the width of the column. If you want to add text above or below the line, put your cursor where you want the text and begin typing.

You will also notice a tiny AutoCorrect Options button pop up next to the line. This is a shortcut that allows you to undo the automatic line when you don’t need it, stop them altogether, or dive into the AutoFormat options dialog.

AutoFormat Button in Microsoft Word

You can turn off these lines permanently from the AutoFormat options dialog.

Go to AutoFormat As You Type tab > Apply as you type section > uncheck Border lines.

Insert a Horizontal Line From the Ribbon

If you find AutoCorrect annoying and disabled the option, there’s another quick way to add a horizontal line.

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1. Place your cursor where you want to insert the line.

2. Go to the Home tab and then click the dropdown arrow for the Borders option in the Paragraph group.

3. Select Horizontal Line from the menu.

Insert horizontal line in Microsoft Word

4. To tweak the look of this horizontal line, double-click the line. The Format Horizontal Line dialog box enables you to modify the width, height, color, and alignment of the line.

Format Horizontal Line dialog box in Word

5. To resize a line, select the line with a double click and then drag any of the resizing points to change the length or width.

6. To remove the line, select it and press Delete on your keyboard.

Use Borders to Add Horizontal and Vertical Lines

The Borders option in the Paragraph group also gives you another way to insert a top or bottom border that resembles a horizontal line in the document.

1. Click on the paragraph of text where you want the line to appear.

2. Got to Home and the Paragraph group. Click on the Border button. The Bottom border is usually the default. This places a line below the selected text on the page, or the paragraph if you haven’t selected any text.

Screenshot of Word's Border and Shading button

3. For other options (like a vertical border), you can click on the tiny dropdown arrow on the Borders button to access a list of options.

Adding a Vertical Border in Word

4. To change the look of any border, click on Borders and ShadiThen, use Use the dialog to adjust the border’s style, color, and width.

5. Deleting this horizontal line in your Word document may not be obvious but it easy enough.

Use Shapes to Insert a Horizontal or Vertical Line in Word

The Shapes menu contains several line options. These line shapes come with one crucial difference—you can draw them at different angles. Then, after you draw the line, you can personalize the color and appearance to make decorative horizontal or vertical lines even in the middle of a Word document.

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1. Position the cursor where you want to insert a line.

2. Go to Insert > Illustrations group > Shapes dropdown arrow.

3. In the Lines group, choose the shape of the line.

Screenshot of Lines shapes in Word

4. Click and drag across the document with the mouse pressed till the endpoint. (Tip: Hold down the Shift key to insert a straight line that is either horizontal or vertical)

5. Keep the line selected to personalize the appearance of the line with the Shape Format tab on the Ribbon.

Shape Effects and Styles for a straight line in Word

6. Go to the Shape Styles tab, change the color, use a different line style, or apply effects.

7. You can also right-click on the line and choose Format Shape from the context menu to open more options for changing the look.

How to Add a Vertical Line and Separate Text into Columns

Text arranged into columns is a basic layout technique. For example, you can separate text blocks into multiple columns and insert a vertical line between them.

1. Select the text.

2. Go to Ribbon > Layout > (Page Setup group) Columns. Click on the dropdown and select the number of columns you want.

Change layout to columns in Word

3. The text is now arranged into columns. Click on any column and go to Layout > Columns > More Columns.

4. In the Columns dialog box, check the Line Between box and click OK.

Adding Vertical lines between columns

Note that you can also change the number of columns and the spacing between them from this dialog.

How to Use a Bar Tab to Insert a Vertical Line

Tab stops in Word help align lines and paragraphs. The bar tab, on the other hand, doesn’t set a tab. Instead, it. It inserts a vertical line and demarcates your paragraph into columns.

1. Select the paragraph where you want to add the vertical line.

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2. Go to Ribbon > Home. In the Paragraph group click the tiny arrow to open the Paragraph Settings.

Paragraph Settings in Word

3. Click the Tabs button at the bottom of the dialog.

4. In the Tab stop position box, enter the position where you want the vertical line to appear. You can use the ruler at the top of the screen to gauge a value to enter.

5. Click the Bar button in the Alignment section. Click on Set and OK.

As you can see, I have set it to “-0.2” to make it appear just to the left of the first paragraph. To delete the vertical line, delete the bar tab.

Using a bar tab for a vertical line in Word

Also: Want to make blank lines where the reader can fill in some information? You can use tabs to quickly create empty lines in forms with Microsoft Word.

How to Insert a Graphic for Creative Lines in Word

Using pictures for horizontal and vertical lines can be a creative workaround. But use them with care and avoid overusing them in a document as a stretched or condensed picture can end up looking back on paper or the screen.

A graphic can be used as a straight line horizontally and vertically. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Ribbon > Insert > Picture.
    Inserting Stock Images

  2. Choose one of the picture sources from the dropdown. For instance, select This device to upload a line graphic you created in another program.
  3. The screenshot below sources an illustration from Stock Images. The anchor points around the picture help compress and stretch the picture to something that resembles a straight line. Use the rotation handle to flip the graphic for a vertical line.
    A graphic as a line in Word

You can use these pseudo-lines as separators or as parts of the header or footer of your document. Use the Graphics Format toolbar on the Ribbon to format this illustration with Graphics Fill, Graphics Outline, and Graphics Effects.

Draw a Line in Your Word Document

Horizontal lines are more obvious and familiar. But adding vertical lines at the right place can boost the visual appeal of your content. Lines aren’t mere decorations… they can lead your eye to the most critical part of a document when used with subtlety.

Think about lines and use these methods the next time you sit down to write a professional report with Microsoft Word.

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