Three Microsoft Word Formatting Snafus … Solved!

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?



  1. Avatar Joe says:

    Thank you, you Angel!!!!

  2. Avatar Andy Mergendahl says:

    Deborah, have you seen a glitch in Word 2003 where at seemingly random times whole paragraphs of text suddenly change to a different font? I believe it usally happens when using the Backspace key. Any help much appreciated.

    • I have, and it’s usually because someone’s backspaced over a code of some sort (like the paragraph break, which occasionally is the border between one text ‘definition’ and another). Sometimes, rather than setting the base font of the document (or the “Normal” font) to whatever font they want, users will change fonts on blocks of text in sort of random fashion, which can result in some weird document behavior.

      Next time that happens, you can hit CTRL-Z to undo the damage, then try to set the Normal or relevant paragraph styles to the right font. Or do CTRL-A to select all text and (assuming you want the entire document to be the same font) and change the font for the whole document.

  3. Nice! We still have a few of those WP people in our office that constantly ask questions about Word 2010.

  4. Avatar duvallawyer says:

    Awesome posts! Thanks so much!

  5. Avatar Atty says:

    Oh god, that horizontal line thing makes me CRAZY. Thanks for posting this! Hallelujah!

    • There’s also a way to prevent that from happening ever again. It involves re-configuring AutoFormat:

      (1) Go to Tools, AutoCorrect Options (Word 2002-2003) or go to Word Options, Proofing via that big, round Office Button in the upper left-hand corner  (Word 2007) or on the File tab under Options (Word 2010), then go to AutoCorrect Options.
      (2) Go to the AutoFormat As You Type tab (all versions).
      (3) The checkbox that controls this particular feature is found under “Apply as you type” (almost dead center – see it?).  Uncheck the “border lines” checkbox (and any of these other AutoFormat features that have been bedeviling you lately) and click OK.
  6. Avatar Joe says:

    My biggest problem with word is formatting pleading paper. Issue one is leaving the caption page unnumbered. Every time I try to start page 1 on a different page, the caption page reverts to a blank word doc; no pleading lines. Also, can never seem to figure out the best spacing for lines. I’ve tried “exactly at 24 pt,” which usually works, but sometimes the lines start going above the pleading number. Would love to know how to perfectly format pleading in word!!

  7. Avatar Miscellaneous Lawyer says:

    I have two common snafus, one of which I have solved, one I haven’t.

    The first is when I notice that suddenly all of my text is in Times New Roman at 12point font. We use a different font (book antiqua) that is fairly similar, so the difference is sometimes hard to spot for a few lines.

    The problem is that when I remove italics, I tend to keep typing fairly quickly. I type ctrl-i, ‘space’ etc. What I actually do is type ‘ctrl-i’ ‘ctrl-space’ without knowing that I kept the ctrl key down too long. What that does is removes formatting and reverts to the ‘standard.’ There are two solutions; don’t do it, and change your ‘standard’ formatting to the one you actually use.

    The second problem is where I have section breaks in a document (say a will) I often struggle to keep the page number OFF the first page, (part of section 1) but ON the last page (part of section 2.) I use the ‘don’t number first page’ check-box, but it often numbers it anyway.

  8. Avatar Brendan Connal says:

    Okay, this is a tough one…

    How can I look at two different pages at the same time. I want to look at page 2 for my contents, and say page ten to see what the title on page 10 is. I know that you can skip pages in Excel, but I haven’t discovered a way in word, so I have to keep scrolling all the way up the document and then all the way down again.

    Please help!

  9. Avatar Alan Carpenter says:

    View two parts of a document simultaneously

    After splitting, scroll the top section back to the Contents section and carry on working in the bottom section.

    Alan Carpenter

  10. Avatar Christine says:

    Please! I need help with the briefs I get from the attorney’s I support. They cut and paste paragraphs, citations, formatting into a brief. I am responsible for creating the Table of Contents and the Table of Authorities, but many times the files come with the previous codes already there, generating wrong page numbers and a table of contents that is piece meal.

    Is there a way to mass delete all the codes and TOC TOA formatting so that I can start marking a clean brief. My briefs seem to be 50-100 pages, so going in one by one can be time consuming when my turn around is expected same day or within 24 hours. I have Office 2010 and my attorney’s use Office 2003.


    • Here’s the problem (as you’ve apparently already figured out) — using features like Clear Formatting (that button that looks like an eraser in the Font section on the Home tab) doesn’t touch embedded codes like marked citations.

      What I’d recommend is that you select the offending text, use CTRL-X to lift it out of the document, then use Paste Special to drop it back in as Unformatted Text. You’ll lose formatting like italics/underline on case names, etc., but it sounds like a small price to pay to get your TOAs/TOCs working correctly.

      And it sounds like your attorneys need a quick lesson on Paste Special, too. The two seconds it’ll take them to NOT do CTRL-V will save you a ton of time in not having to clean up after them, WHICH WILL HELP THEM GET WORK OUT THE DOOR FASTER. Can we all say Win/Win?

      • Avatar Ann says:

        Choose “replace”, and under “more options” choose “special”, then choose “field”. Leave the “replace with” part blank. Choose “replace” all. This worked for me on a 600+ page brief, so I could start fresh and code it accurately.

  11. Avatar Tim says:


    How can I add or delete lines and/or spaces on one page without it affecting all the other pages before and/or after?

    • That’s tricky and really depends on context. In some documents, changes like that don’t affect pagination; in others, it does. You might have to resort to using a hard return at the end of the edited page to force-preserve the pagination after the edits.

  12. Avatar Sharon Crommett says:

    How can I add a blank page to the end of a pleading – one without the lines, numbers or footer?

  13. Avatar Carmelino Gozum says:

    I am typing out a legal document. And finished but now I have to type in the names of the people the signatory on the side. How do I type in those names on the right side of the page vertuically? You know people will have to sign every page….how can I add their names on the side and maybe a line above their names.

    • I would use the Indent feature (probably the third button from the right in the Paragraph section of the Home tab, depending on which version of Word you’re using) to put the signature lines, etc., over on the right-hand side of the page.

  14. Avatar B Murray says:

    You absolute legend. That ‘white space’ trick is golden. Thank you so much

  15. Avatar Darin Newton says:

    I’ve had problems with this quite a bit, only there are no page-breaks in the white space. It’s just completely blank. I’ve recently found that it was due to having figures in the text and the way that the anchor is attached to a certain line. If you have a large blank space on the page preceding a figure, the line that the figure is anchored to will not move up into the previous page, so you just have to move the anchor down to a different line.

  16. Avatar chelsea says:

    im trying to get rid of the header and footer on the second page but the break button doesnt work what other way can i get rid of this. i am using a microsoft word 2007

  17. Avatar Jennifer says:

    HELP – this always happens and the person who used to fix it for me isn’t around. When using mail merge in a Word document, it shows twice as many pages as there are. So even when I scroll through the document there are no blank pages, when I print there is a blank page every other page. This isn’t a printer problem either because at the bottom of the document it says it is an 84 page document when I only merged 42 pages. Ugh.

  18. Avatar Heather says:

    Thanks for the tip on getting rid of the shading. I was able to use this in a table that had “hidden” shading I couldn’t see on screen.

  19. Avatar Nira says:

    I use MS Word 2010 in conjunction with Nuance PDF Converter. I’ve recently converted a document from PDF to Word. I’ve gone through once to fix all the things that Word doesn’t recognize as actual words and had copied as pictures (don’t even get me started on that…), but I found it had also tampered with the basic margins. At this point I had sent it back to the original requestor and everything was fine.

    After fixing the margins and re-formatting a lot of the internal text (tables, flow-charts, etc), I sent it back again. This time all of the formatting was even WORSE than before I fixed it. He sees a horribly messed up flow chart, and I see a nice, clean one. It’s the same document, same version of Word, same kind of computer, same monitor, even!

    Why does this happen, and how can I fix it?

  20. Avatar Jesse says:

    I am drafting a document that has numbers in the left margin from 1 – 28 like…
    4 etc.

    I have gone to “line numbers” on “page layout” and it has none checked. Well, that’s just not true!! They are there and I can’t get rid of them. Suggestions?


  21. Avatar sally says:

    Where my cursor used to be now appears a hand. The hand will not allow me to place the cursor where I need it to be and will not allow me to type text or highlight the row.

  22. Avatar saima says:

    hi, its a good post but i couldn’t fine the answer to problem i’m facing ;(
    MS word 2010 , i’m doing a research assessment. i had made front cover, done bit of literature reviews…… and….. at the end i had made budget and timeline ( which were suppose to be the last part of assessment).
    now i still need to put stuff in between front cover and budget. i want that when ever i add stuff in, i don’t disturb the last two pages. when i would need a new page it comes after the reviews before the budget without disturbing or moving budget’s position.
    any help would be appreciated.

  23. Avatar High School Student with Paper Due Tomorrow says:

    I have the weird shading/highlighting problem in various parts of my paper, but following your advice didn’t seem to make it go away. The paint can was already set to “No Color,” and pressing Ctrl+Q with the text selected didn’t seem to anything. Do you have any advice? I have already looked at the normal highlighting and shading settings of course, to no avail.

  24. Avatar Elaine Goldman says:

    You solved my problem. I had that white space on my resume and I could not figure out how to get rid of it. Thank you for your help.

  25. Avatar Kirt Keeler says:

    Anyone know why when I print 2 pages per sheet there is a large blank space at the bottom? It’s like it is printing the footer in with it or something, albeit blank.

  26. Avatar RickOMG says:

    usually about 4 or 5 pages into document for no reason The Line spacing will jump mid sentence and it is NOT showing that it has jumped It shows its the same 1.15 but It’s IMPOSSIBLE to get rid of.. (OCD kickin into overdrive. LOL) I have tried everything to fix this and I am doing nothing odd to create it. this is the third time in my life that I have run into this problem on 3 different systems… Is it me or has anyone else had similar problems?

  27. Avatar Ha says:

    OMG!!! You are my life saver!!!!

  28. Avatar hwei says:


  29. Avatar Dave Eccleston says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! The second (big sections at the bottom of the page) was driving my insane!

  30. Avatar CongoPasteur says:

    Bless you!

  31. Avatar Sharon says:

    My problem is that my document looks fine, but when I print as a booklet it prints with lines, borders and shading! The first print, only the second page printed this way. The second print, the entire document printed this way. I can’t get rid of it. But it doesn’t show on screen.

  32. Avatar Emilyjem says:

    Thank you!! That blank space issue was killing me!

  33. I’m a writer and when I start a manuscript I always set it to Garamond font, size 12, then under formatting/paragraph I make it left aligned, body text, then under indents I have 0 for the spacing, then first line, then 0.5″ (I have Word 2003, btw)
    But as I go back to edit, I find some paragraphs are only indented 0.3″ – yet if I highlight the paragraph and pick formatting/paragraph – it still SAYS its 0.5″
    Anyone know how to fix this? :^
    Thanks :)

  34. Avatar Cynthia Credell says:

    Wondering if you can add pleading paper (28 lines) to a document after it has already been generated?

  35. Avatar ElScott8 says:

    That ginormous mysterious space with not page break was driving me insane!!! Thank you SO much :)

  36. Avatar Wendy says:

    I am hoping you are able to help me. I need to have my line numbering continue into the footnotes. I have Word 2007 and Word 2010. I was told to create a text box and do manual numbers but I need the numbers to be continuous not repeat. Any suggestions?

  37. Avatar anonymus says:

    when I use Microsoft word numbering, once it gets to 10 it starts the typing on the other side of the paper and wont go back to the regular numbering no matter what I do. HELP!!!!!

  38. Avatar Gayle says:

    I used to be able to see the lines in a table when I cleared them so they didn’t print, but all of a sudden I can no longer see them. I am working in MS Word 2003 version. I don’t know what happened or why I can’t see them. Any suggestions????

  39. Avatar kash says:

    i hit something and it turned 8 pages of word doc into 2. now i cant get it back the way it was. Its like the pages are stacked on each other. help please. thanks

  40. Avatar Maria says:

    Dear Legal Office Guru, in Word 2010, when one adds a TOA and TOC why doesn’t the print layout no longer true? Thank you!

  41. Avatar Jaci says:

    I have created a 16×22 document in Word, but when I try to share it via Dropbox or Google Drive, the document continues to show only an 8.5×11, cutting off the excess. Is there a way I an either share the 100% larger file, or reduce it so that it all fits on the 8.5×11 page?

  42. Avatar Reillybooks says:

    I have a similar issue,but it involves the page numbering. I have been using word for years to format books (I’m an author and editor), and have had no issues with adding page numbers, inserting section breaks to start them at a certain spot (like after the title page), and I unclick the link to the previous section when starting my page numbers in the middle of a document. The issue is that recently, word for some reason began adding a horizontal line above the page number. I’ve tried erasing the border, and it says there are none, but there it is. I can’t highlight it or delete it. I hate it, and I want it gone. Any suggestions? I might add that when I chose my page numbers to put in, I’m not selecting one with a line.

  43. Avatar fuzzball says:

    I set my background for parchment (or canvas or any other because I tried them all) and I finally got it to cover the entire page when printed. (Printer is HP c7280, Word 2010) I wanted to make a document look old. If I print page 1 it is perfect if I print page 2 it is perfect, if I print 1 and page 2 it is perfect but if I print page 1 and 2 back to back (duplex) page 1 has a 1/2 inch white strip on the bottom. In fact if I continue printing back to back every odd page has that strip but not if printed individually, only two sided printing…wait…could it be that the paper is held by the printer at the bottom 1/2 inch to be pulled back into the machine and therefor the ink cannot get to it? Doing front to back and back to front I get the same results, always the odd page has the strip. I can print out all the odd pages and then flip the stack and print all the even pages. So I guess the question is doing duplex printing with a document with a texture or color covering it all is there a way to get the 1/2 strip to be covered or is it mission impossible?

  44. Avatar Ellen N Gene McDaniel says:

    I’m trying to make a border of photos for a flyer and no matter how I set the margins the bottom pictures keep getting cut off!!! HELP ME PLEASE!!!

  45. Avatar richard says:

    Hi, Wondering if you can help! I have a word doc that we turn into a pdf to send to client, this is an invoice. There is a table in the middle. When we save to PDF the lines of the table show up as going off of the page, just looks less professional, any thoughts?

  46. Avatar Eli Camp ND says:

    Brilliant! Have been trying to get rid of these funny little black boxes forever! Only visible when the ¶ is selected. Option 2 above made it magically disappear. Thanks.

  47. Avatar Barbara Nunley says:

    I have Word version 10. In my older versions when I was working in the web layout mode, I could press control and page down to paginate 1 page at a time. In Word 10, it only goes down a few lines and not an entire page. I have tried to set it to “go to next page” and it doesn’t do it. Can you tell me how to go down the document 1 page at a time? Thank You.

  48. Avatar susanneal says:

    Suddenly (of course) my page is 2″ shorter than it should be. Measuring 8 1/2″ x 9″. It was 8 1/2″ x 10…it’s shrinking! I also can’t access my margin control vertically. I can horizontally. What the heck is going on?? Yes, I’ve changed the size back to 8 1/2″ x 11″ and margin control as well. Nothing is working. ALL page sizes is showing 2″ shorter than listed.

  49. Avatar Linda Fiorenzano Carvelli says:

    Hi, THANK YOU! However, I’ve followed the instructions for the paragraph settings (to prevent white space at bottom of every other page) and it’s not working/taking. When I go back into the settings, the boxes are filled with black dot which I’m assuming means set on.

  50. Avatar armydicked says:

    The DREAM is always the same. Bill Gates calls me from Jail. “Michael, there’s a bunch of these BIG, BRAWNY sweaty inmates and they demanded I have sex with each of them. The guards aren’t around and I’M SCREWED!!!

    I always tell Mr. Gates the same: “Calm down, Billy. First, did you do a BACK-UP? If you didn’t—you soon will!!! Second, did you try CONTROL, ALT, DELETE? Didn’t work, huh? Then it looks like YOU’RE SCREWED, William!!! You can start you life over or call MICROSOFT CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! I then chuckle to myself and sleep soundly…G-O-D, I hate MS (fill in your MS PRODUCT here)!!!

    MY CRISES DEJOUR involves Cutting & Pasting a 2007 word doc onto Pleading Paper. You can’t take an OLD pleadings and wipe it out & cut & paste onto it because, while it looks great on the screen, it prints it without it!!! HELP!!!

    Our old WORD 2003 had a PLEADINGS WIZARD integrated into the program; WORD 2007 doesn’t. Don’t even get me started on our ‘FREE’ WIN10 upgrade. WIN10 will work on SOME of our laptops B-U-T not those with the Radeon ATI video graphics in them. Ask me about our WIN10 upgrade that cost us one month down time when we had to convert everything back to WIN 7 Pro 32bit!!! Grrrrrr!!!!!

    a. Your brief is finished and you have enough time to run to San Francisco from Sacramento & it is MAGNIFICANT—the best Tobacco, Caffeine and other Hallucinogens can produce. You print your OPUS and openly weep. WHY? As if demon possessed, Microsoft has shifted every other line of text up to fill wasted space and now your whole paper is wrecked!!!

    b. I wrote a simple WITHDRAWAL Brief, six pages long that LOOKED GREAT ON THE SCREEN but broke up when printed. NOTHING WORKED. My solution was to cut each page then paste each page as a new document and then go back into the Footer and renumber them to match each of the cut six pages (in sequence).

  51. Avatar Amanda Stephan says:

    I’m working on typesetting a manuscript. When I hit CTRL + Home, instead of sending me to the beginning of my document, it sends me to the very end. I’m using MS Word 2013 and the most current OS.

  52. Avatar Bill Polhemus says:

    This is forever ago, but my problem is I’ve got an AUTONUM field that won’t AUTONUM!

    The Text + Toggled Field looks like this:

    Photograph 1 – { AUTONUM * Arabic \s ” ” }

    These are all set up in a blank document that has only the captions (and the header/footer). It remains for me to insert photographs as needed.

    The problem is, I’ve noticed I cannot copy any of the captions as I’m used to doing, to paste one or more to the end of the rank, and I cannot paste to insert it somewhere within the rank either. If I do, it will retain the number that the original caption I copied.

    I have tried everything I know to do, and still this glitch persists.

  53. Avatar Meghan Pinson says:

    Thank you so much! That big blank space was driving me nuts.

  54. Avatar Renee Shakespeare says:

    You have solved the mystery of the century! Namely how in the world to remove boxes around paragraphs that I didn’t place there. I’m formatting a book for someone who is more familiar with WordPerfect than Word and he uses many obscure features that don’t translate well. Thank you again for the Ctrl +Q instruction for removing formatting from paragraphs. You are a lifesaver!

  55. Avatar Robert Ontko says:

    Hello, I have word 2016. A company I do work for sends me letters with headers and footers for me to edit. Never had a problem before and still don’t with all their letters except for one. This is a different header and footer and as soon as I click enable editing the header and footer disappear

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