Microsoft Word can create formatting problems that seem to defy solution no matter how many diagnostic tools you use. Here are three of the biggest head-scratchers I see in day-to-day law office work (and how to fix them).

That Horizontal Line You Can’t Delete

There you are, typing along and minding your own business, when all of a sudden a horizontal line appears across your page. You do what seems to be the sensible thing: placing your cursor before the line and hitting the Delete key. Except, that doesn’t work.

What you’ve got here is something called a paragraph border that’s been created for you courtesy of Word’s AutoFormat feature. You made the innocent mistake of typing three dashes in a row and hitting the Enter key, and Word decided that you must have wanted a line all the way across the page.

Here’s how you get rid of it:

  • Place your cursor into the text immediately preceding the horizontal line
  • In Word 2007-2010, click the Border drop-down in the Paragraph section of the Home tab of the Ribbon and choose No Border

  • In Word 2002-2003, go to the Format menu and choose Borders and Shading, then choose None or No Borders

That Large Blank Space at the Bottom of Your Page

Or perhaps, as you’re proofing the document before printing, you notice that one of the pages has a large amount of white space at the bottom.

You turn on your Show/Hide button, looking for a page break code, but there’s none to be found. So if no one has accidentally put a hard page break in there, why is the page breaking there?

The fault lies with Microsoft Word’s version of Block Protect, which keeps sections of text together on the same page. This is a particular problem with text that has been generated by outside systems, such as billing programs.

The fastest and easiest thing to do is to hit CTRL-A to select all the text in the document, then go to the Home tab and click the Launcher arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the Paragraph section:

You’ll get the Paragraph dialog box. Make sure the three checkboxes below are unchecked (you may have to click them twice to get them unchecked):

Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to scroll through your document (preferably in Print Preview mode) and make sure all your page breaks are correct.

That Highlighted Text That Won’t Go Away

If you save your Westlaw or other research portal documents as Rich Text Files (.rtf) and then try to use that text in Microsoft Word, you may notice your research keywords are highlighted. Unfortunately, they’re not highlighted Microsoft Word’s way, so you can’t just select the text, drop-down the little Highlighter tool in the Font section of the Home tab, and choose No Color to delete the highlighting.

That’s because you’re not dealing with font formatting (which is what normal highlighting is), you’re dealing with paragraph formatting. Quickest, easiest fix? Select the text with your mouse or keyboard, then press CTRL-Q to remove all paragraph formatting. If you need to preserve other paragraph formatting like indentation, etc., select the text and click on the drop-down next to the Shading icon (it looks like a paint can) on the Paragraph section of the Home tab, then choose No Color.

So, What’s Your Puzzler?

There are probably as many formatting snafus as there are Microsoft Word users. Which one has puzzled you lately?