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What are these funny symbols? Paragraph marks and other marks in Word for PC and Mac

17 Jul

A friend got in touch recently in a bit of a panic. All sorts of odd marks had appeared in her Word document. It looked something like this:

d

What were all these funny symbols? Where had they come from and, more importantly, how could she get rid of them?

Showing paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols

Word gives you the option to view paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols. Basically, this means that you can see where the author of a document has pressed the Return key or Tab or Space, or inserted a forced break or some other formatting. Why is it useful? It means that if you are editing or otherwise tidying up a document, you can see what’s been done in order to resolve it. For example, in this document, I can see that the author has used the Return key to force text to appear on a new page (instead of using Ctrl-Enter to force a page break):

bb

and when I’ve done it properly, I can see the page break marked:

cc

So, how did I get to see these funny marks? In Word for both Mac and PC, you can find a button with the paragraph mark on it which will make them display:

Show Paragraph marks in Word for PC

Go to the Home tab and you’ll find it half way along. Press the button, it will go orange, and your formatting marks will display.

c

I’ve actually put this button onto my Quick Access Toolbar (find out how to do that) as it’s a very useful button for an editor/proofreader!

Show Paragraph marks in Word for Mac

In Word for Mac, the Show Paragraph marks button is handily already in the top toolbar. Press the button and all your formatting will become visible.

on a mac

How do I hide the Paragraph marks and other formatting?

If the marks appear and you want to hide them, simply find the Paragraph Marks button and press it again. It should stop being orange, and your formatting marks will no longer be displayed.

Thanks to Linda for the inspiration and Mac screenshot!

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This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Find all the short cuts here

 
25 Comments

Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

25 responses to “What are these funny symbols? Paragraph marks and other marks in Word for PC and Mac

  1. limebirdwriters

    July 10, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Great advice! Those paragraph marks get on my nerves though, haha. Don’t think I’ve ever used them! Beth

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      July 10, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Thank you! They’re so helpful for me, so they do serve a purpose!

      Like

       
  2. Louise Harnby | Proofreader

    July 17, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Another great post for fearful or new Word users, Liz. What particularly struck me is how useful this is for writers (or editors and proofreaders who are formatting for their clients) using Word as the basis for epublishing. As you and I both know from experience, Word’s normal view can hide a multitude of ‘nasties’ that can negatively impact on the output of a Word document that’s been converted to, say, a mobi or an epub file. Knowing how to interpret these ‘funny symbols’ increases the likelihood that the final product will offer a comfortable reading experience that’s easy on the eye and appears professionally produced.

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      July 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Yes, indeed, Louise, that is a good use for it. I don’t do much formatting but find it so, so useful for trying to work out what someone’s done to a document!

      Like

       
  3. Sparrowgrass

    July 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve also fielded this query. People do get worried about the “funny symbols” don’t they?! Next time anyone asks me this I can just point them here.

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      July 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Yes, indeed, and glad I can give you something to direct people to!

      Like

       
  4. SGANS

    September 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve found the symbol and attempted to turn it off. It does not work!

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      September 14, 2015 at 5:39 am

      That seems very odd, as you just need to press the button with the paragraph mark on in order for it to disappear. What version of Word are you using, and for PC or Mac?

      Like

       
  5. Geoff

    September 25, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Re the para marks at end of lines etc. I have an iMac and I have this in view all the time, how do I remove them or tap a key to turn them off. Most of the remarks here are re Word documents.

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    • Liz Dexter

      September 25, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      See this section in the article:
      Show Paragraph marks in Word for Mac

      In Word for Mac, the Show Paragraph marks button is handily already in the top toolbar. Press the button and all your formatting will become visible.

      If you press the button again, the formatting should disappear.

      Like

       
  6. marla wills

    April 10, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    the show paragraph marks button is NOT handily already in the top toolbar. I have looked everywhere for it.

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      April 10, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Which version of Word are you using? I have a screenshot of it in its place and a link to the article saying how to get the button on the QAT. If you’re using a Mac I’m not an expert but there are some notes. If you are using another version, comment and I’ll try to work it out for you.

      Like

       
  7. marla wills

    April 10, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    command + 8 worked though!

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      April 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Ah, you’re on a Mac, not an expert there. I will add this to the post when I get a moment. Thanks for sharing what worked!

      Like

       
    • Danielle Price

      February 4, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! IT WORKED!!

      Like

       
  8. linwinn

    April 28, 2016 at 8:54 am

    When I send work from my MAC (word 11) to a PC (WORD 13) it is returned showing §§ instead of Ch. (We are using Arial 11). Please do you know what is happening to cause this? Would I be better off using Times Roman?

    Like

     
    • Liz Dexter

      April 28, 2016 at 8:56 am

      Thank you for your question. I’m afraid compatibility between Mac and PC is outside of my experience and area of knowledge, so I can’t advise on this. I am leaving your question live in the comments in case anyone else has the answer (this does sometimes happen).

      Like

       
  9. Al

    May 18, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Is there a way to “Find & Replace” these paragraph symbols with a comma? I have a large list filled with these that I’d like to change to make a CSV type file.

    Like

     

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