Lingo Woman's Microsoft Word formatting tips for translators #3

Inserting Dot Leaders

I like to share any useful Microsoft Word formatting tips that I come across when translating. I'm sure if it's something I find useful, then other freelance translators out there may find it useful too. 

I've been working a lot lately with scanned pdf documents, which means spending a lot of time recreating source document formatting. And something that's been super useful (and time-saving) for me with this type of work has been finally figuring out how to insert a dot leader. "What's a dot leader and why would I ever need to use one of those?!" I hear you ask...

Well, have you ever tried to recreate a table of contents and wondered how on earth to insert that long line of dots leading from the text on the left to the corresponding page number on the right? A bit like this:

Now of course I realise that it is possible to insert an automatic table of contents which will do this sort of thing for you. But what if you just want to manually create a table of contents?

I have to admit that in the past I've attempted to 'recreate the look' by simply holding down the full stop button. Any of you out there who have tried this will know that all you end up with is a big old mess, with a wobbly line of page numbers down the right-hand side of the page. Not good. So, after lots of research and googling (trust me, it takes a while to figure it out when your google search goes something along the lines of 'how on earth do I insert that long line of dots across the page in a table of contents from the text on the left all the way across to the page number on the right').

Eventually I figured it out and, as it turns out, it's really easy to do (especially once you work out that the technical name for that 'big long line of dots in a table of contents' is actually a 'dot leader'. So here's how you do it:

  • Type the text that you want to appear before the leader, e.g. 'INTRODUCTION'...
  • Then, on the horizontal ruler above your document, click where you want the tab to stop (i.e. where you want the page number to be). Like this...

  • Next click the Page Layout tab...

  • Then click the Paragraph Dialog Box Launcher...

  • Then click the 'Tabs' button...

  • Under 'Leader', click the leader option you want (dots)...

  • Click OK
  • Now press the TAB key on your keyboard and, hey presto, the dot leader is inserted! Now you can add in your page number, so it should all look something like this:

NB: When you press Enter to start a new line, the format stop is automatically carried over for you so you don't have to repeat the whole process again for each line.

Easy, right?!


  1. Thanks for this post Kate! Actually, I already knew how to do this, but, like you, I had to struggle to find how to do this when I needed it.

    As ALWAYS, nothing is simple with MS products. Frankly, do these guys at MS love self-punishment or what?


  2. You can save yourself one step by skipping over the tab setting (step 2) and inputting the number directly in the tab dialog box.

    You can save yourself three steps by selecting the lines you want to format and right clicking; look near the middle of the contextual menu for a shortcut to 'paragraph'.

    If you regularly find yourself having to tweak tabs, you can save yourself four steps by adding the 'tab' options as a button in your top menu bar. (You used to be able to place action bars anywhere around the window, but MS removed that feature in Word 2007. One of the most inconvenient 'improvements' of that version of Word, IMO).

    ** Side benefit of using tabs instead of periods: easier segment creation in translation tool!

  3. Thanks for this post Kate! I find it very useful. Personally I think that "the guys at MS love self-punishment" :) as Jérémy mentioned on his comment.

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