I want to know if it is possible to adjust the spacing of only the first hierarchy in a hierarchy list in Pages (something like:

1. Item One
   a. Subitem
   b. Subitem

2. Item Two
   a. Subitem

3. Item Three
   a. Subitem
   b. Subitem

Currently if I change the setting in the spacing part and update the "body" style, every single bullet would be spaced out as each bullet is considered a paragraph. The only way is to manually add spacing before every first-level list item.

Note: Referring to this question: Pages multilevel bullet spacing, I created a list style but there is no "update" button when changing the spacing, only update button available in the body text style.

Note: Pages version 11.2 on macOS Monterey.

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  • The obvious is do this change but then on heading 2 put the spacing back to the current state
    – mmmmmm
    Oct 21, 2021 at 14:06

2 Answers 2


Welcome to Ask Different!

Yes, that is possible. All you need to do is create a new paragraph style (instead of a List Style) in the Format -> (Text) Style sidebar and apply that style whenever you create a first-level list item. Here is how you can do it based on the example in the picture below:

After creating a "first-level" item and changing its "List Style" to Numbered, set its "Before Paragraph" spacing to, for example, 6 points. An "Update" option will appear right next to the "Body" paragraph style on the sidebar. Instead of clicking on the Update, click on the Body paragraph style which will give you the list of existing paragraph styles. Then click on the "+" sign in the paragraph styles menu to create a new paragraph style and name it "First-level". In addition to spacing, you can now make other changes to the "First-level" paragraph style and these changes will automatically apply to any paragraph this style has already been applied to.

The directions above and the example below is from Pages v8.1 but I reckon the settings are quite similar to those in the version you have. You can find more on creating paragraph styles in this Apple support document on Pages.

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  • Thanks, I think that is what I would do. Although I am assuming that I would have to manually change the paragraph style for every single first-level bullet point? (Sorry I am new to the site, should I comment like this for something like this?)
    – Thomas Li
    Oct 22, 2021 at 8:41
  • No problem. Your comment is quite alright. Yes, you need to apply the new style manually to every existing first-level bullet point or those you are to create. If there are too many first-level bullets already or if you are planning to create many more, you can assign a keyboard shortcut ((only to be applicable in the document it is defined within) to the style as described in this Apple support page. Pls don't forget to accept my answer if it has answered your question indeed!
    – Alper
    Oct 22, 2021 at 9:35
  • Unless a recent version of pages has changed this, Para Styles do not record a list/bullet style as part of their definition. You have to do these things in parallel. This is either a feature or an annoyance depending on your perspective. More advanced tool like InDesign allow the definition of list and bullet styles (and much else) inside a Para style, or to be agnostic about them allowing for overrides. Dec 5, 2023 at 6:04
  • @ThomasLi , the workaround to this problem, apart from the limited choice of shortcut keys F1-F12 is to create the first para graph in the style you desire for the list and then hit return or copy and paste the line many times, the numbers will increment if you have the style set to contagious numbering ("Continue from Previous"). Then go about putting other styles inside these level headings for the rest of your content. Dec 5, 2023 at 6:04
  • Thanks for the link to Apple's documentation on lists and para styles. I was no able to find it with searches, though I didn't try going in through the application help. unfortunately this documentation fails to cover the more subtle issues of the functional overlap for para and list styles (indentation is effected by both styles for one thing). I've attached a file demonstrating the bugs in Pages WRT list and para styles below. Dec 5, 2023 at 7:24

Paragraph styles (para styles) and List styles are mostly independently assigned and applied in Pages documents. Except where they have functional overlap and this is where the nightmares of trying to achieve correct formatting in cascading lists and more complicated interleaved list structures occur. It's subtle to some extent, but it can be a show stopper.

One of the bugs I encounter is that sometimes when one updates a Para style some of the text that the style is already applied to, even where there are no Para style overrides on the text, it doesn't update to reflect the new style definition.

One work around I have discovered for this bug is to Apply "none" style and then reapply the style that had previously been assigned to the text. not sure why this works sometimes, perhaps there are subtle style overrides or incorrect overrides on the text that aren't prompting a "Clear Overrides" menu item but are none the less there and blocking the style from updating automatically.

Sometimes this workaround doesn't work. At this point you have to resort to more crude methods, like starting from scratch with, say, Default text style.

I don't recall if this bug has been affecting List styles for me, I seem to have less or no issues with List styles not updating.

To avoid problems with Lists not moving following keyboard commands to move a paragraph to the next level down in the hierarchy of Cascading Lists, and as a general rule of thumb, my workflow is to generate the List Style by creating placeholder text for each level in the list at all the cascading levels one anticipates one will need. Update the List Style as you set the "Number" and "Text" indent values as you set up each new level down.

I then go back and work through the Para Styles I want applied at each level of the Cascading List and apply those to the placeholder text, one by one, making sure that all text at that level in the list has the same List and Para styles applied and update properly when you update one of the styles being applied anywhere in the cascading list.

This pages file demonstrates what is possible and what can go wrong with the interaction of List and Para styles and their overlapping functionality WRT horizontal indentation for "numbers" and "text" settings.

It's not clear to me if Pages records all the seperate "numbers" and "text" indentation settings for a cascading list for each level of the cascade, or if it's one setting applied iteratively as it were. It seems like one List Style will record seperate "Number" and "Text" indent values at each level of the list it describes, but I need to confirm all that.

Worth noting that the "Number" and "Text" indents at each level of a Cascading List relative to the "Text" indent of the preceding level, if that makes sense. Another way to say same thing, the indent values are not absolute indents relative to the ruler margins.

This is what the document looks like if you don't want to download it.

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