How to Turn Off Automatic List Detection in Google Docs

Have you ever started typing something into Google Docs that started with a dash, only to have the application automatically start the next line with a dash, too? This is happening because Google Docs thinks you are trying to type a list, so it is helping you out.

The automatic list detection is one of several automatic formatting options in Google Docs that you can turn off. For example, you can also choose to turn off automatic link formatting, as well as automatic word capitalization.

When you are actually typing a list, then automatic list detection can save you some time. But if you aren’t typing a list, or don’t like the formatting that Google Docs uses when it creates lists, then you might want it to stop. Fortunately there is a setting in Google Docs that controls this automatic list creation, so you can follow our tutorial below and see how to disable automatic list detection in Google Docs.

How to Turn Off Automatic List Detection in Google Docs

  1. Open a Google Doc.
  2. Click Tools.
  3. Select Preferences.
  4. Click the box next to Automatically detect lists.
  5. Click OK.

Our article continues below with additional information and pictures of these steps.

How to Prevent Google Docs from Automatically Making Lists

The steps in this article were performed in the Google Chrome Web-browser version of Google Docs. Following these steps is going to disable the default Google Docs settings that causes the application to automatically turn certain types of text into lists when it detects them. This will apply account-wide, so it will affect other documents that you edit in Google Docs as well.

Step 1: Go to your Google Drive at and open a document.

Step 2: Click the Tools tab at the top of the window.

click the tools link at the top of the window in google docs

Step 3: Click Preferences at the bottom of the menu.

open the google docs preferences menu

Step 3: Uncheck the box to the left of Automatically detect lists, then click the OK button at the bottom of the window.

how to stop automatic list detection in google docs

When you turn off automatic formatting in Google Docs, such as by adjusting this link detection, it will affect other documents that you create or edit in Google Docs as well. Changes made to the Preferences options are applied application-wide, unlike many of the other edits or formatting adjustments that you might make to your document.

Does your document have a lot of formatting that you want to change or remove, but changing each individual setting is too time consuming? Learn how to clear all formatting from a selection in Google Docs and make your re-formatting tasks a little simpler.

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