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Word: Remove excess paragraph marks

May 27, 2010

Many Word users don’t use styles to format their documents. Instead, they apply manual formatting to text, and press Enter twice each time they want a bit of white space between paragraphs. However, if the document goes through several review cycles, there’s a good chance that one of the reviews will involve applying a template — and thus its styles — to the original document. And this can result is excessive white space between paragraphs where an extra Enter was used to add space.

For example, in the screen shot below, the author has pressed Enter once at the end of each paragraph.

However, the eye is used to differentiating one paragraph from another with white space, so the author presses Enter again to get that extra bit of space, as in the screen shot below:

When one of the reviewers applies a template with styles that include paragraph ‘leading’ (the above/below space for a paragraph), the result is too much white space, as shown in this next screen shot:

Now, if you only have a few paragraphs to tidy up, you could remove the excess paragraph marks manually. But as soon as you have a page or more of these empty paragraphs, you’ll want a quicker way to get rid of them.

Here’s how… (this works in both Word 2003 and Word 2007)

  1. Press Ctrl+H to open Word’s Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. In the Find what field, type ^p^p (that’s two lots of Shift+6 to get the ^ character followed immediately by a lower case p — the p MUST be lower case). DO NOT insert any spaces. What you’re doing here is getting Word to look for any paragraph mark (^p) followed immediately by another paragraph mark (the other ^p).
  3. In the Replace with field, type ^p (once, no spaces) to replace two consecutive paragraph marks with just one.
  4. Click Replace All.

When Word has finished replacing the two consecutive paragraphs with one, you’ll get something like this, where the white space is only controlled by the above/below values for the paragraph’s style:

Other uses:

  • To replace two consecutive tabs with a single tab: Find ^t^t and replace with ^t.
  • To replace two consecutive soft line breaks with one: Find ^l^l and replace with ^l (that’s a lower case L for library).

See also:

[Links last checked May 2010]

13 comments

  1. This is a great tip and technique and one I’ve used for years. The thing is, it has just stopped working for me in Word 2007, and it’s only on a particular file. I can see the two paragraph markers in my document, but when I search for two, it can’t find them. I can search for one paragraph marker, and it finds each of the individual ones, including the consecutive ones, one at a time. I’m thinking that, because I create the file as text and sucked it into Word, it might have a CR/LF not a paragraph marker?


  2. I don’t know enough about a text file sucked into Word and whether the CR/LF may be at fault.

    Another possibility is that you are viewing the doc in Final mode but have Track Changes that haven’t been accepted — sometimes those hidden Track Changes can cause problems when manually deleting supposedly empty paragraph marks. Try changing your View mode to Final Showing Markup to see if there’s any Track Changes at play here.


  3. [...] Remove consecutive paragraph marks (^p), tab marks (^t), soft line breaks (^l) etc. [...]


  4. This actually worked. I hate printing out half pages of text because someone was formatting it for a newsletter when I don;t want the pictures.


  5. Great tip…I was sent a very long and badly formatted document by someone and this has saved my bacon!. Thanks.


  6. This did not work for me. There is no paragraph mark in the special menu, and the Find what: box will not accept ^p. In previous Word versions I’m sure i had it, but not this one. I have not been able to search for or replace with a paragraph mark. I wonder if something is turned off somewhere so that I don’t have the capability in my search dialog box.


  7. Hi Clark

    Very strange. I’ve used this in Word since at least Word 2000, and currently use in in Word 2003, 2007 and 2010.

    Some reasons as to why it may not be working:
    * make sure you use a lower case ‘p’
    * make sure there are no spaces between the ‘^’ and the ‘p’
    * make sure ‘Use wildcards’ is NOT turned on (click the ‘More’ button to find this check box, and turn it off if it’s on)
    * try this via the find/replace options: Click ‘More’ then the ‘Special’ button — ‘Paragraph mark’ is the top one listed.
    * try closing then reopening Word and trying again

    One other thing, are you using a Mac version of Word? I’ve heard that some features aren’t available in the Mac version, but as I don’t have a Mac, I don’t know what they are.

    –Rhonda


  8. ^p will never work with wildcards turned on.
    using ^13 will also find paragraph markers, just never use it in the replace field, always use ^p there. here is another way to find multiple instances, check the wildcard option, in the find field use (^13{2,}), in the replace with use ^p. this will find any multiple of ^p, weather it’s 2 or 3 or 150.
    you can also use the above wildcard search for multiples of anything, just replace ^13 with what you are looking for.


  9. i love you.


  10. I had the same problem. Turned out that even though the paragraph marks are visible Word 2010 does not recognize them any more in the search because they are in another format.
    Solution: save file as text file. Open text file in Notepad. Copy and paste the text to Word. Now Word will find the paragraph marks. Just opening the text file in Word does not do the trick.
    Strange.


  11. Thanks for that solution Tom. There’s perhaps a bit more at work here with the ^p/^13 issue. See this blog post of mine on it: http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/word-carriage-returns-not-paragraph-returns/

    I’ll add this link to the main post too, in case anyone else has the same issue.

    –Rhonda


  12. Finally! The right answer after hours of searching when the Paragraph box failed to remove spaces. Thanks!



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