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How to Remove Carriage Returns in MS Word

Updated March 23, 2017

Carriage returns are normally invisible characters in Microsoft Word that mark the end of a paragraph. When they are invisible, it can be difficult to tell when the end of a line is caused by words wrapping at the right margin and when it is caused by a carriage return. Making carriage returns visible allows you to work with them more easily.

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  1. Open the document in Microsoft Word that you wish to work with.

  2. Click on the "Show Paragraph" button in the toolbar. This is a symbol that resembles a backwards capital-P, with two lines on the right. When "Show Paragraph" is selected, carriage returns will appear in a blue colour in your document. If the Show Paragraph button is not in your toolbar, you can also make them visible by going to Preferences and clicking "Nonprinting Characters," "Paragraph Marks" and then clicking the checkbox.

  3. Use the mouse and arrow keys to position the cursor. You can delete paragraph marks just as you would any other character.

  4. Remove multiple paragraph marks with the Find and Replace tool. Choose "Replace..." from the Edit menu, click in the "Find what:" field, then select "Paragraph Mark" from the Special drop-menu. Use the Find Next button to move between paragraph marks; leave the "Replace with:" field blank and click "Replace" to remove them.

  5. Tip

    Use "Replace All" to take out all extra paragraph returns in a document by doing it twice. If you want to take out paragraph marks after every line and actual paragraphs have an extra carriage return between them, search first for all pairs of carriage returns by entering "^p^p and then replace it with something that doesn't appear anywhere else in the document, such as "__". Then replace all single carriage returns with a blank or a space. Finally, replace the "****" with a single carriage return to put the ones you want back in the document.

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About the Author

Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

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