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Tip of the Week: Adding Space Around Lists with Spans

This InDesign tip on adding space around lists with spans was sent to Tip of the Week email subscribers on July 6, 2017.

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Here’s a common scenario: you have lists (either bulleted or numbered), and you want to add extra space before and after the list, but not between the list items.

Most folks would see that there’s no way to use the Indents and Spacing settings to accomplish this with one style, and then resort to applying overrides or using three separate paragraph styles (one for the first list item with Space Before, one for the last list item with Space After, and one for all the items in-between with no extra spacing).

But in fact, there has been a way to accomplish this with a single paragraph style since CS5! It’s the Span Columns feature. Here’s the trick:

In your list paragraph style, go to the Span Columns pane and choose Paragraph Layout: Span Columns, Span: All, and then set the desired space before and after.

using span columns to add space above and below a list in InDesign

Voila! Your list now has extra space before the first item and after the last one.

space above and below lists in InDesign with a single paragraph style

Thanks to Michel Allio (aka Obi-Wan) for pointing this out in the forums!

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of InDesignSecrets.com, InDesign Magazine, and CreativePro.com. Author of lynda.com courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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9 Comments on “Tip of the Week: Adding Space Around Lists with Spans

  1. OMG! I had no idea!
    That´s something i´ve been trying to do for ages.

    Thank you for the tip!

    I would call this a hack, and a very good hack to!

  2. Amazing tip! Can someone describe a good technique of setting sub bullets using this method? How do I adjust the spacing in this situation?

    • You can again make the sub-bullets as “Single Column”, this trick will take you out from the Span zone with the before and after spacing intact, try it.

  3. Unfortunately this solution doesn’t work if you have footnotes. Spanning the column in a list tricks InDesign into thinking that the page (column) ends above the list, so that a footnote that should appear at the bottom of a page is now inserted above your list.

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