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Word Tips about...

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Formatting Marks – Nonprinting Characters – Codes

In a printed document, characters such as spaces, tabs and paragraph marks are invisible. However, Microsoft Word lets you display such formatting marks on the screen. Formatting marks are also known as nonprinting characters or codes.

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Please note that all free Word tips, macros, add-ins and demos are provided "as is" and without obligation. See also detailed Terms of use.


Some of the basic formatting marks

When formatting marks are turned on, you will see spaces, tabs, paragraph marks and other formatting marks on the screen. Some of the basic formatting marks are illustrated below.

Formatting marks

Keyboard shortcut

Ctrl+Shift+8 can be used to turn formatting marks on and off.

You can also turn formatting marks on and off by clicking the pilcrow symbol ¶ on the Standard toolbar in Word 2003 or on the Home tab in later versions of Word.

 

Where to find the options for formatting marks:

  • Word 2003: Tools > Options > View tab.
  • Word 2007: Office button > Word Options > Display.
  • Word 2010 and later versions: File > Options > Display.

 

For an introduction to the formatting marks and for information about how to turn them on and off, view the demo below.

Note that the demo was made using Word 2003. The formatting marks work the same way in Word 2007 and later versions of Word.

 

 

About display of text boundaries

In addition to the formatting marks, the demo illustrates how the option Text boundaries works. In Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, you can turn on text boundaries to have dotted lines shown around margins. This is very useful for layout purposes. Unfortunately, Word 2013 and Word 2016 display text boundaries as dotted lines around each paragraph instead which makes the option very little useful in those versions of Word.

Where to find the option for text boundaries:

  • Word 2003: Tools > Options > View tab > Text boundaries.
  • Word 2007: Office button > Word Options > Advanced > Show document content group > Show text boundaries.
  • Word 2010 and later versions: File > Options > Advanced > Show document content group > Show text boundaries.

Visible formatting marks help you keep track of formatting

Many users who are not familiar with formatting marks get confused if they by incident turn on the formatting marks. However, if you need to control the formatting of documents down to the last detail, visible formatting marks are a must.

It may take some time getting used to work with visible formatting marks but it is well worth the effort.

Related information

You will find more details on this subject in the article "What do all those funny marks, like the dots between the words in my document, and the square bullets in the left margin, mean?" found at the Word MVP site.


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