Force First Line of Justified Paragraph to be Flush Left

Lisa wrote:

I’m using InDesign and I want to justify a paragraph, but the first line (the title of the paragraph) has to be aligned left.

The simplest solution is to break this into two paragraphs — a heading paragraph followed by a body para. But it sounds like you want them to be a single paragraph for some reason so? here’s a solution: Follow the heading with a tab and then a forced line break (Shift-return/enter).

For example, here’s the original paragraph:


Now, here’s what we get when we put a Shift-Return/Enter (forced line break, or “soft return”) after the period instead of the space:


That obviously isn’t going to work! But if you put a tab character after the end of the heading (before the soft return) you get what (I think) you want:


You don’t need to set any tab stops or anything like that; the tab character itself is all you need.

Note that the bold heading could be formatted manually, but in this case I’m using a nested style or a line style inside the paragraph style.

I wish there were a way to automate this trick in a paragraph style, but you have to manually insert the tab character. (You might be able to find a way to insert it quickly with a find/change, though, depending on the formatting of your headings.)

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11 Comments on “Force First Line of Justified Paragraph to be Flush Left

  1. I do something similar when I want the last words of a left-aligned paragraph to align right, say for a credit at the end of a caption. After the last word of the text that you want to align left, enter a shift/tab. The rest of the text on that line will align right.

  2. You could also use Flush Space/Soft Return, but it really doesn’t improve anything since the tab key is much handier.

  3. Personally, I’d use a right-align tab (shift+tab) as a default, since it would work with any kind of alignment – who knows, someone may need this with a flush-right or even centered paragraph… And as Tina said it comes handy with right-aligned last words.

  4. In this particular case I would have just used a hard return with a justify left. However if she needed to use the soft return then maybe there should be an added feature to InDesign to allow that?

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