How to display non-printing characters in word

Lori Kaufman
How to display non-printing characters in wordLori Kaufman
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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She’s been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business. Read more.

How to display non-printing characters in word

Besides the normal content of your documents in Word, there are also characters that don’t normally display on the screen. In addition, Word uses several special characters for its own purposes, such as characters to indicate the end of a line or a paragraph.

Word refers to these special characters as non-printing characters. Why would you want to display non-printing characters in a document? It’s easier to understand the spacing and layout in your document when these special characters are displayed. For example, you can tell when you have inserted two spaces between words or added an extra carriage return. But there may be times when you want to hide these characters to view your document as it will be printed. We’ll show you to easily show and hide these characters.

NOTE: We used Word 2013 to illustrate this feature.

To display specific non-printing characters, click the “File” tab.

How to display non-printing characters in word

On the backstage screen, click “Options” in the list of items on the left.

How to display non-printing characters in word

On the “Word Options” dialog box, click “Display” in the list of items on the left.

How to display non-printing characters in word

In the “Always show these formatting marks on the screen” section, select the check boxes for the non-printing characters you want to show in your document at all times. The “Show all formatting marks” check box toggles the display of the non-printing characters in the document. This check box does not affect the individual settings in the “Always show these formatting marks on the screen” section.

How to display non-printing characters in word

Click “OK” to save your selections and close the “Word Options” dialog box.

How to display non-printing characters in word

You can also use the button that looks like a backwards “P” (technically called a “pilcrow”) in the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” tab to show and hide non-printing characters.

NOTE: The backwards “P” button performs the same function as the “Show all formatting marks” check box on the “Display” screen of the “Word Options” dialog box. Toggling one affects the other.

How to display non-printing characters in word

Note that any formatting marks you selected on the “Display” screen of the “Word Options” dialog box show no matter what, even when you click the backwards “P” button in the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” tab to turn off non-printing characters.

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How to display non-printing characters in word Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She’s been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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How to display non-printing characters in word

You can easily show non-printing characters in Word documents. In Word, the “Spacebar,” “Tab,” and “Enter” keys all create characters within your document. In this regard, they act like most other keyboard characters keys do. However, unlike most other characters, you cannot normally see these characters. This means that they can sometimes cause problems if they are accidentally selected. For example, accidentally selecting a “Tab” character can cause a problem when copying and pasting text from one location to another in a document.

Sometimes, you may want to show non-printing characters in your Word documents. To show non-printing characters in Word, click the “Home” tab in the Ribbon. Then click the “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button in the “Paragraph” button group. The face of the button looks like the paragraph mark (“¶”).

After you click this button, it then appears highlighted to let you know that the function is turned on. To then hide non-printing characters in Word, click the same “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button again. Doing this then turns the display of the non-printing characters back off.

How to display non-printing characters in word

Show Non-Printing Characters in Word – Instructions: A picture of a document after showing the non-printing characters in Microsoft Word.

Show Non-Printing Characters in Word: Instructions

  1. To show non-printing characters in Word documents, click the “Home” tab in the Ribbon.
  2. Then click the “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button within the “Paragraph” button group.
  3. To hide the display of the non-printing characters in your document, click the “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button again.

Show Non-Printing Characters in Word: Video Lesson

The following video lesson, titled “ Non-Printing Characters ,” shows you how to show non-printing characters in Microsoft Word 2016. This video lesson is from our complete Word tutorial , titled “ Mastering Word Made Easy v.2019 and 365 .”

There are several different characters, such as a space and tab, which Word does not normally display on the screen. In addition, there are several special characters that Word uses for housekeeping purposes. For instance, Word uses special characters to indicate the end of a line or the end of a paragraph. You can display these special characters, which Word refers to as nonprinting characters, by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Display at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

How to display non-printing characters in word

Figure 1. The Display options in the Word Options dialog box.

Why would you want to display these characters? Quite simply, because it is much easier to understand spacing when the characters are displayed. You can quickly tell, for instance, when you have inserted two spaces between words or added an extra carriage return. This allows you to more accurately control the look of your document and what it contains.

There is also a quick way you can turn nonprinting characters on and off using the ribbon. Display the Home tab of the ribbon and look for a tool in the Paragraph group that looks like a backwards P. (Technically this character is called a pilcrow.) This tool is known as the Show/Hide tool. Clicking it toggles the condition of the Show All Formatting Marks checkbox in the dialog box shown earlier. Thus, it can quickly turn on and off the nonprinting character display.

There is one interesting “gottcha” to this, however. In the dialog box, you can select to individually display or hide specific nonprinting characters. If you select the checkboxes for all these individual characters, using the Show/Hide tool still only toggles the Show All Formatting Marks checkbox—the individual settings for specific characters are not affected at all.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8879) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Displaying Nonprinting Characters.

Author Bio

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. Learn more about Allen.

Hi friends, do you know about the non-printing character? During typing any thesis, letter, email message and many more in any document of MS Word you must use lot of different non printing characters. Most of the users ask this question how to show or hide non printing characters in MS Word.

Many time we need to know how much non printing characters are used in the active document. Lot of person asked what is needed to view these characters. Answer of this question is very simple that you can easily view single or more spacing between the characters.

This feature allows you to easily control the design of your active document and also know how much extra non printing character used by you in active file. You can easily view all non-printing characters like tab, space, enter, hidden text, optional hyphen, object anchors and special characters in the active document of MS Word.

You can easily view all these non-printing characters like tab, space, enter, hidden text, optional hyphen, object anchors and many special characters in the active document of Microsoft Word 2010. Normally these non-printing characters are not seen on the screen during typing or finalization the contents of active file. There are two ways from which you can easily show or hide all of these non-printing characters either from word options window or by clicking on the show or hide button from the ribbon bar of MS Word window. You can show all non-printing characters all the time or any time.

How to show or hide non printing characters

Method 1: From the Word Option

How to display non-printing characters in word

Click on File option in the standard tab, then click on the option button and click on the Display option in the Word option dialog box. Now turn on all given option in “Always show these formatting marks on the screen.”

Method 2: From Show/Hide button

There is another easy and quick method from which you can easily turn on or off all used non-printing characters in the active document from the ribbon bar in Microsoft Word application window. You have to click show or hide button which is located in the Paragraph group of the Home tab or you can also press CTRL + SHIFT + * key combination to show or hide all non-printing characters in active document. When you turn on this option it displays all spaces as a dot (.) period, tab keys (®), paragraph mark or enter key by (¶) signs.

Must Read: How to Turn ON or OFF Track change in MS Word 2013

I hope you like this show or hide non printing characters guide from which you will be able to easily show or hide non printing characters without any extra efforts. If feel any problem in this guide then please use comment box.

Word utilizes a number of different characters that don’t show up on a printout of a document. For instances, spaces and tabs leave horizontal space within a document, but there is no indication of their position within a printout.

On-screen is something different. You can see these non-printing characters by simply clicking on the Show/Hide tool on the toolbar. For instance, spaces show up as dots and tabs show up as right-pointing arrows. Seeing where the characters are located can be a great help in formatting a document.

But what if you actually want to have these characters printed? What if you want the small dots or right-pointing arrows on your printout? Seeing them printed could be a big help for teachers and others who must judge whether formatting has been done correctly within a document.

Unfortunately, there is no configuration switch or printing mode that allows these non-printing characters to appear on the printout. There are ways around the problem, however. The most obvious answer is to do screen shots of smaller documents. These screen shots would capture the dots, arrows, and other indicators. This will only work, of course, with very short documents. The benefit of this approach is that the printouts can be taken home and graded without the need for a computer at hand.

If you prefer, you can also do a Replace operation to search for all the characters that are non-printing and replace them with their visible on-screen character. This may sound odd, but is quite simple. For instance, you could search for all occurrences of ^p (which is the paragraph marker) and replace them with ^0182^p. The ^0182 code is the backwards P symbol used at the end of paragraphs. The ^p, of course, is used to actually stop your paragraphs from running together. The ^0182 code will print the desired symbol, but the ^p code will not. You can do similar Replace operations for other common non-printing characters; simply look through the symbol tables used by Word to discover the different characters you can use in the operation. You can also codify the steps into a macro that could be run against all the documents, as needed.

There is one caveat to the foregoing approach: Adding the printable characters to the document will make the document itself larger and will affect the horizontal and vertical spacing of the document. This can be an acceptable price to pay, however, if your goal is a hardcopy of those non-printing characters.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (845) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Printing Non-Printing Characters.

Author Bio

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. Learn more about Allen.

How to display non-printing characters in word

The Show-Hide non-printing characters button will toggle display. In Word 97-2003, it is on right end of the Standard toolbar between the Document Map button and the Zoom drop-down. In Word 2007-2013 it is in the Paragraph group on the Home tab.

How to display non-printing characters in word

Show/hide button in Word 2003 and 2019 respectively

There is a keyboard shortcut for toggling display using Ctrl+Shift+8 or Ctrl+*. These are not the keys in the numeric keypad but the regular typing keyboard. This shortcut works in Word 97-Word 2013 (and probably earlier and later versions as well).

The non-printing formatting characters include:

The paragraph mark at the end of Word paragraphs. (4 above) – Indicates Enter key was pressed.
The Style Separator (looks like a paragraph mark in the middle of a paragraph) available in Word 2002 and later. (not shown)
The manual line break that ends a line, but not a Word paragraph. (3 above) – produced using Shift+Enter
The tab mark. (5 aove – beginning of line) – indicating Tab key was pressed
Blank spaces that look like little dots between words. (1 above) – produced using Spacebar
Hard (non-breaking) spaces that look like degree symbols between words. (2 above) – produced using Ctrl+Shift+Spacebar
Manual Page Breaks (6 above) – produced using Ctrl+Enter
Section Breaks (similar to manual page break)
Column Breaks (similar to manual page break)
Hidden text (marked as hidden in the Font Formatting dialog) including TC, TA, and XE fields. (7 above)

For more ways to examine formatting, see Checking Formatting – Word’s Reveal Codes.

The paragraph symbol on the show/hide button is a "pillcrow" which is used by Word to designate an end of paragraph mark.

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FAQ provided as an adjunct / hobby as a part of my web site as a criminal defense lawyer.

There are several different characters, such as a space and tab, which Word does not normally display on the screen. In addition, there are several special characters that Word uses for housekeeping purposes. For instance, Word uses special characters to indicate the end of a line or the end of a paragraph. You can display these special characters, which Word refers to as nonprinting characters, by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Display at the left side of the dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

How to display non-printing characters in word

Figure 1. The Display options in the Word Options dialog box.

Why would you want to display these characters? Quite simply, because it is much easier to understand spacing when the characters are displayed. You can quickly tell, for instance, when you have inserted two spaces between words or added an extra carriage return. This allows you to more accurately control the look of your document and what it contains.

There is also a quick way you can turn nonprinting characters on and off using the ribbon. Display the Home tab of the ribbon and look for a tool in the Paragraph group that looks like a backwards P. (Technically this character is called a pilcrow.) This tool is known as the Show/Hide tool. Clicking it toggles the condition of the Show All Formatting Marks checkbox in the dialog box shown earlier. Thus, it can quickly turn on and off the nonprinting character display.

There is one interesting “gottcha” to this, however. In the dialog box, you can select to individually display or hide specific nonprinting characters. If you select the checkboxes for all these individual characters, using the Show/Hide tool still only toggles the Show All Formatting Marks checkbox—the individual settings for specific characters are not affected at all.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8879) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Displaying Nonprinting Characters.

Author Bio

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. Learn more about Allen.

How do you make sure non-printing characters are displayed?

To show non-printing characters in Word documents, click the “Home” tab in the Ribbon. Then click the “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button within the “Paragraph” button group. To hide the display of the non-printing characters in your document, click the “Show/Hide Non-Printing Characters” button again.

What are non-printing characters and how you can display them?

Non-printing characters or formatting marks are characters for content designing in word processors, which are not displayed at printing. It is also possible to customize their display on the monitor. The most common non-printable characters in word processors are pilcrow, space, non-breaking space, tab character etc.

How do you display a character in a document?

You can display these special characters, which Word refers to as nonprinting characters, by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box.
  2. Click Display at the left side of the dialog box.
  3. In the Always Show These Formatting Marks On the Screen section, select the characters you want Word to display.

How do you show hidden characters?

As with most things in Word, you can use either a keyboard shortcut or the mouse to see the hidden formatting characters.

  1. Keyboard, hit Control+Shift+8.
  2. Mouse, simply click the Show/Hide button on the Home tab.

Which button do you press to show non-printing characters formatting marks and breaks?

Show or Hide the Formatting Marks To show the formatting marks: Press Control+Shift+*. Press those three keys again to hide the formatting marks.

What are non printing characters in writer?

Non printing characters are those character which is used in writing a document but are not visible. They are used for formating purpose only. They include tab, spaces and enter key.

How do you see whitespace characters?

In Visual Studio for Windows, to display whitespace characters (tabs, spaces, etc) you simply press Ctrl + R, Ctrl + W.

How do you identify special characters?

Searching for Special Characters

  1. Press Ctrl+F. Word displays the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click the More button, if it is available. (See Figure 1.)
  3. In the Find What box, enter the text for which you want to search.
  4. Set other searching parameters, as desired.
  5. Click on Find Next.

Why are there symbols on my Word document?

Those strange ¶ symbols are called pilcrow signs or paragraph signs and they show the end of paragraphs. They’re useful to see when you’re formatting and editing e-books and don’t print at all, but could be distracting.

How do I remove hidden formatting in Word?

Use Ctrl + A to select all text in a document and then click the Clear All Formatting button to remove the formatting from the text (aka character level formatting.) You can also select just a few paragraphs and use the same method to remove formatting from part of a document.

What is the little arrow in my Word document?

Any tab in a document will be represented by an arrow pointing to the right, as shown in the picture. If spaces are instead of a tab to format the text, you’ll see the space characters, mentioned above.

Where is the non printing formatting marks?

What are non-printable characters in Excel?

Non-printable Unicode characters include numbers 129, 141, 143, 144, and 157. Additionally, you may wish to remove 127, which is the delete character and is also non-printable.

Certain characters, called nonprinting characters, will not appear in your printed document but do affect your document layout. You can elect to see these characters on the screen as you type or to have them remain invisible. For example, the end-of-paragraph marker marks the end of a paragraph and if you choose to have it display, appears wherever you press the Enter key.

Selecting the Show/Hide button in the Paragraph group displays nonprinting characters. Deselecting the the Show/Hide button in the Paragraph group hides nonprinting characters. There are six nonprinting characters. The following table describes them:

Nonprinting Characters

Show/Hide Nonprinting Characters:

  1. Choose the Home tab.
  2. Click the Show/Hide button in the Paragraph group. The Show/Hide button appears in a contrasting color when it is selected.

Note: The Show/Hide button is a toggle button. If nonprinting characters are set to be hidden on-screen, click the Show/Hide button to display them. If nonprinting characters are set to appear on-screen, click the Show/Hide button to hide them.

Can I choose which nonprinting characters appear on-screen?

Yes. 1) Choose the File tab. A menu appears on the left side of the window. 2) Click Options. The Word Options dialog box opens. A menu appears along the left side of the dialog box. 3) Choose Display. 4) In the Always Show These Formatting Marks on the Screen section, check the formatting marks you want to see. If you want to see all of the formatting marks, check Show All Formatting Marks. Checking the Show All Formatting Marks option has the same effect as selecting the Show/Hide button. 5) Click OK.

More about the non-printing characters in Word (all versions)

In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned Word’s “non-printing characters,” but only in passing. Even in my early post about the paragraph symbol (pilcrow), I didn’t go into details about the non-printing characters: what they are, how to display (and hide) them, how to troubleshoot issues involving them.

The non-printing characters are what Microsoft calls “formatting marks.” They indicate the presence of various types of formatting, but they do not print with the document, even when they are displayed on the screen. Essentially, they serve as markers or signposts that you can use to figure out what’s going on in your document.

Types of Non-Printing Characters

There are several different non-printing characters that you can display. Among them:

    The paragraph symbol or pilcrow (which contains formatting codes for the preceding paragraph)

Another non-printing character you’ll see at times is a small black square that appears in the margin to the left of a paragraph. That symbol indicates that someone has applied one or more of the following Line and Page Break options found in the paragraph dialog: Keep with next, Keep lines together, Page break before, or Suppress line numbers (the mark doesn’t appear if Widow/Orphan control or Don’t hyphenate has been applied).

In addition, when you display the non-printing characters, you will see any codes you have inserted to mark items for inclusion in a generated Table of Authorities (TOA). (The same is true if you use TC codes to mark the Table of Contents, or TOC.) CAUTION: Although those codes won’t print when you send the document to the printer, you need to remember to hide the non-printing characters before generating the TOA (and/or TOC). The reason is that the displayed codes do take up space in the document, and they can bump a citation to the next page, such that when you generate, the pagination in the TOA (and/or TOC) will be incorrect.

Codes used to mark Index entries, ordinarily invisible, also will appear when you display the non-printing characters.

How to Display or Hide the Non-Printing Characters

To display or hide the non-printing characters, press the key combination Ctrl Shift * (asterisk) — the asterisk is located above the number 8 in the row of number keys at the top of your keyboard. That key combination, which works in all recent versions of Word, is a toggle. Press once to display the characters; press a second time to hide them.

Alternatively, you can click the paragraph icon that is located on the Standard toolbar in versions of Word up through Word 2003 and in the Paragraph group on the Home tab in Word 2007.

Troubleshooting the Non-Printing Characters

If you have pressed Ctrl Shift * (asterisk) or clicked the paragraph symbol a couple of times in an attempt to hide the non-printing characters but some or all of them remain visible, they’re probably enabled in the Word Options. You’ll need to go into the options and disable them.

In versions of Word prior to Word 2007, click the Tools menu, Options, and look at the View tab. About halfway down, you’ll see a section labeled Formatting Marks. Click to uncheck any boxes with checkmarks in them (including “All”). Be sure to save your settings by clicking OK. After doing so, you should be able to hide the non-printing characters in the normal way again. In Word 2007, click the Office button, Word Options, Display, and do the same. (Note that in Word 2007, the “All” option has been renamed “Show all formatting marks.”)

Codes That Aren’t Considered Non-Printing Characters

Most of the field codes (date codes, page number codes, file name and path codes, etc.) are not considered non-printing characters and won’t display when you press Ctrl Shift * (asterisk) or click the paragraph symbol. To display those codes, press Alt F9. (Press Alt F9 again to hide them and show the code results instead.)

Bookmarks aren’t non-printing characters, and you can’t use Alt F9 to display them. Instead, in versions of Word up through Word 2003, click the Tools menu, Options, navigate to the top portion of the View tab, click to check Bookmarks, and click OK. In Word 2007, click the Office button, Word Options, Advanced, scroll about halfway down to Show document content, and check Bookmarks (if that option is unchecked), then OK out. Note that displaying bookmarks doesn’t reveal their content. Rather, bookmarks appear as gray brackets around bookmarked text.

Finding and Replacing Non-Printing Characters

You can search for (and/or replace) many of the non-printing characters. Just invoke the Find dialog with Ctrl F (or press Ctrl H to open the dialog to the Find and Replace tab), click the More button to display all of the Find options, then click the Special button. You can search for any of these characters:

    the non-printing paragraph mark (note that you can search for paragraph symbols you have inserted into the text as characters, but keep in mind the difference between the two. Word uses the term “paragraph mark” to mean the non-printing character and the term “paragraph character” to mean the symbol inserted into your document as printable text)

Note that if you like, you can insert the caret symbol (the one over the number 6 in the row of numbers at the top of your keyboard) and the appropriate letter or character if you wish to search for one of these non-printing characters. For example, you can type ^p if you want to search for the non-printing paragraph symbol.

You can replace a non-printing character with nothing (leave the Replace with box empty), with another character (including but not limited to non-printing characters), or with text.

Printing the Non-Printing Characters

As far as I know, there is no easy way to print the non-printing characters, though conceivably you could use Find and Replace to substitute printable paragraph characters for non-printing paragraph marks (and use similar workarounds for other non-printing characters). The only simple method that occurs to me is to take a screenshot by using Print Scrn (or using a program such as SnagIt) and pasting the contents of the clipboard into a blank document.

**To hide text, select it, open the Font dialog (by pressing Ctrl D or using any other method you prefer), and clicking the checkbox next to “Hidden.”

***If you search for “White Space,” Word will find normal spaces, but if you have several consecutive spaces, it highlights all of them as a group, rather than individually. Also, a search for “White Space” turns up other non-printing characters (including non-breaking spaces and non-breaking hyphens) in addition to normal spaces.