I am formatting a Hebrew bible in InDesign for my class, but I'm having trouble with making indents in a way that I can apply it to the entire copy.

It currently looks like this:


But I want it to look like this:


Is there anyway (1) to do this easily and (2) apply it to every line in the book? There are over 600 pages and I'd like to avoid doing it manually, if possible. I've looked into a number of articles explaining tabs and indents, but I can't seem to find anything relating to something like this.


  • Is it all two lines maximum? Or might it also be a paragraph of more than two lines where you want all subsequent lines after the first one to be indented? If it’s always just two, you can just use the Right Indent Last Line option in your paragraph style settings; if there are also longer paragraphs, that’s more complex. (Also, wouldn’t the text look nicer if the chapters and verses were properly aligned underneath each other? Should be doable with a tab aligned on the colon character, I should think.) Mar 7, 2018 at 22:56
  • Yes, I believe it is only ever 2 lines maximum, but the last line indent seems to also indent the first line if there is only one line. Is there a way around that or is a more complex route my only option?
    – bjayers
    Mar 7, 2018 at 23:37
  • Ah yes, good point. Perhaps the least hassle would be to have two styles and apply the one with the last line indent to multi-line paragraphs only. Mar 8, 2018 at 7:11
  • @JanusBahsJacquet why don't you flesh that out into an answer? Here in the comments it's not possible to accept as correct thus keeping the question open forever
    – Luciano
    May 9, 2018 at 11:37
  • @Luciano Assuming that Ben has the MENA version of InDesign, it appears that opentype’s answer is the correct one, not mine. May 9, 2018 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


There is not much to it. It’s the classic way to style lists in any design or word processing application.

Step 1: You indent the whole paragraph by a certain value, e.g. 20 mm

Step 2: You set a negative indent for first line with the same value, e.g. –20 mm

Step 3: You set a tab stop at the same value (e.g. 20 mm) and use a tab in every first line of the paragraph.

Now everything falls into place perfectly. The text in every first line because of the the tab, all following lines use the paragraph indendation. The figures in every first line are placed correctly through the negative indent.

  • How exactly will this work when the list is right-aligned? There is no first line indent option for the right-side margin. Mar 10, 2018 at 9:17
  • It’s a right-to-left script, so the paragraph needs to be set right-to-left and then everything will be reversed automatically.
    – opentype
    Mar 21, 2018 at 7:04

First, take a look at @opentype's answer, as it is 100% correct and generally a proper way to do it. I wanted to add this as a comment to his answer, but not enough rep, so...

I couldn't help but notice this:

detail from sample image

If this was tab-delineated, all lines of the verse text should align (if there was just one tab character in each paragraph, of course), but they don't. To me, it looks like there is a space of some kind between verse number and verse text, rather than a tab.

If you want to use whitespace to delimit numbers from text (but, better not), then the indent method will not work properly. Instead, you can put an Indent to Here marker between the whitespace and the beginning of the verse text. You can do that by selecting Type -> Insert Special Character -> Other -> Indent to Here. The remaining lines should all indent themselves to the vertical position of the marker. Here is how it looks:

Indent to Here indentation

I have used an em-space as a delimiter. Notice that there are no paragraph indents (all zero), yet they all line up exactly as you wanted. Here is how it looks with hidden characters:

hidden characters – ON

The only nuisance with this method is that you need to add Indent to Here markers to each paragraph. It can be done using some GREP, though.

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