Understanding formatting in Microsoft Word

By | Apr 9, 2008

One question I often get from other Administrative Assistants is how to figure out why a document is doing something strange. Most of the time I find out they have formatted something without realizing it. Usually they are quite amazed that I figured out the issue, when all I did was turn on hidden symbols in the document.

On your formatting toolbar, there should be an icon that looks like a backwards P (it’s the paragraph symbol or hard return symbol).

Show hidden icon in Microsoft Word

Clicking this icon will turn on the formatting symbols in your document.

Formatting symbols in Microsoft Word

  1. The first symbol is the tab symbol.  This indicates that you have inserted a tab at that location.
  2. The second symbol is the hard return symbol.  It indicates, of course, a hard return.
  3. The third symbol is the space symbol.  These can be confused with a period at times, so if you have trouble seeing them, increase your zoom.

These are the three most common formatting symbols you’ll see.  There are others, but they are less often used.  I will post some of those at a later date.

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2 Comments so far
  1. Modern Glam (1 comments) April 9, 2008 8:48 am

    I hate Word, lol! Great post…..maybe I’ll attempt to apply my newfound knowledge to a Word doc today! :)Nicole

  2. Maura (1 comments) April 15, 2008 6:01 am

    I love this function and have been using it for years.  It gives me a “bird’s eye view” of what’s going on, especially in documents that I don’t create.  Great post and great Blog!

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