Word.Tips.Net WordTips (Menu Interface)

Stubborn Highlighting

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Stubborn Highlighting.

Jim wrote about a problem he was having with some highlighted text he couldn't get rid of. He typed a list of items intending later to format them with numbering. Before formatting the numbering, he highlighted the first word of one item of the list and chose Insert | Comment to type a comment in the document.

After submitting the document for review, Jim removed the comment associated with the list item. The number to the left of the text remained highlighted, as did the period following the number. He backspaced over the number and re-did it. It still returned, highlighted, as did all the numbers for the items above it.

Jim is suffering from a common ailment, believe it or not. The formatting for numbered items in a list is contained within the paragraph marks for the list item in question. Thus, if you have a numbered list and the 2 in the list (with its period) is formatted funny, then formatting for that number and period is contained within the paragraph mark that is at the end of that particular paragraph. You get rid of the formatting by selecting the paragraph mark and then making your highlighting changes.

In Jim's case, the entire paragraph could be selected (including the paragraph mark) and then you could press Ctrl+Q (to reset the paragraph formatting) and Ctrl+Space Bar (to reset the character formatting). That should take care of any stubborn residual formatting. If the stubborn formatting happens to be highlighting, however, it is not removed by either of these shortcuts. In the case of stubborn highlighting, you must make sure the paragraph mark is included in your selection and then choose None from the Highlight drop-down list on the Formatting toolbar.

It is interesting to note that the effect that Jim describes of all the numbers above the current one becoming affected (after he backspaced, pressed Enter, and redid the item) is consistent with the solution just described. When you position the insertion point at the beginning of a numbered list item, and then backspace, you eventually erase the paragraph mark at the end of the foregoing list item. When you press Enter, Word places a new paragraph mark at the end of the item. On what does it base the new paragraph mark? On the one with the errant formatting at the end of the current list item. Thus, the foregoing list item would then exhibit the faulty number formatting, as well as the current one.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1453) 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: Stubborn Highlighting.

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Comments for this tip:

Crystal Geng    27 Oct 2016, 17:01
Let me know how to use the highlighter on windows 10. What key is it or keys, is it just a pen or the dots in 3 different colors, which is what I'm used to. I can't find any of it on windows 10 can you help? I'm an online student in class and need it right now.
Thanks so much
Johnny    14 Aug 2016, 12:17
Thank you for that simple yet effective tip!
Steve    26 Jul 2016, 20:16
Stubborn highlighting: Control + space bar did the trick - thank you!
Michelle    07 Apr 2016, 07:03
Control + space bar worked when nothing else did to remove yellow highlighting - brilliant tip.
Leslie    02 Mar 2016, 19:10
MS Word 2003: ALL of my text is highlighted like being ready to be copied. ALL my docs are this way. Cannot get rid of the black highlights. I can use Control and it seemingly gets rid of it, only to come back when I click the document.
Please help!
JanneP    19 Feb 2016, 11:50
This was a great tip! Helped me solve a very stubborn highlighting issue. Thank you so much!
Helga    14 Feb 2016, 08:15
Removing the paragraph mark at the end of the paragraph and then pressing enter worked perfectly. Thanks!
Dr. Mary Cerreto    13 Jan 2016, 13:00
You wouldn't believe how many YEARS I have suffered with this. Thank you so much!
Liz    12 Jan 2016, 09:43
Thank you so much for saving my sanity! Your simple remedy for removing highlighter between a bullet and text was a sight for sore eyes!


Palmerston North,
New Zealand.
Rick    23 Nov 2015, 06:30
Your advice, once again, is without flaw! Thank you thank you!!
dick    16 Nov 2015, 16:41
Why no ‘highlight’ in spelling & Grammar tab.
All other taps like view, general, edit etc with highlight.
Office Word 2003 (11.6568.6568) SP2

I enjoy all your all your tips on word.tips.net thx
Stephen Gray    26 Sep 2015, 23:39
A problem with Allen's suggestion: the last item in a numbered list has no paragraph mark. I somehow got rid of its highlight but I don't recall how. Why can't the highlight procedure for numbers of list items be the same as everything else?
Ada    28 Aug 2015, 18:47
Thank you ad infinitum for the tip on removing that stubborn highlighting!!
Victorson    06 Aug 2015, 01:06
I had a similar problem. But it was my mistake. I highlighted using the "highlight" tab(near change font color). But I tried removing highlight using "shading" tab (paint cup symbol) near borders tab. You have to use the same tab which you used for highlighting, for removing also.
parry    13 Jul 2015, 06:33
when typing on any word document, i was able to right click to correct a spelling error but now I get the quick access bar and the whole paragraph highlights which is annoying
anytime I select a word the whole line highlights
dinesh patel    10 Jun 2015, 08:07
very nice tip. thank you very much Mr.Allen
Andrew Barrett    05 Jun 2015, 14:04
It helped me. Thanks.

I had a numbered list where I had removed highlighted notes, but numbers on lines where highlighted notes had been made remained highlighted.

By simply selecting the whole paragraph where the highlighted notes had appeared and clicking on the box to set no highlighting, the pesky highlighted numbering disappeared.

Now all I have to do is remember to look online for the answer next time that problem arises...

Thanks again.

Debbie    30 Apr 2015, 16:00
Those tips did not help me but I typed CTRL + A and selected none in the highlighting and it went away.
Andrew    29 Apr 2015, 10:29
Stubborn highlighting may be fixable by selecting: [Review][Protect Document][Restrict Formatting and Editing], click [Restrict Formatting and Editing] a few times until it is checked. A blue window pops up with a checkbox for 'Highlight the regions I can edit". Un-check this checkbox.
Paul Wilson    23 Apr 2015, 20:53
WOW! None of these helped, but while trying them I stumbled onto the Track Changes side bar (which we have to use for controlled documents and any revisions we do).
If you click on the Track Changes bar along the side of the document, table, chart, etc. it will Highlight in light blue all the changes/revisions you have introduced while the side bar fades from a bright red to an off tan. Click it again and the blue highlight goes away and the side bar becomes red again.
WOW! Took a day to figure this one out.
Stacy    22 Apr 2015, 13:46
I guess my problem is different and the tip above doesn't work. Somehow in a list of points I. II. III. and so on, only one of them ended up being highlighted for some reason. Clearing all formatting simply moves the text to the left and CTRL Spacebar does nothing to the selected paragraph. I just need to remove the highlight from the II that I didn't even put there in teh first place.
Cara    27 Feb 2015, 14:02
Thank goodness for this site.
Nate O    20 Jan 2015, 18:04
Thanks! Worked like a charm. Super helpful.
Marty Mouse    22 Oct 2014, 22:34
Your a legend this works for word 2010 as explained.
I wasted a lot of time before I found this answer.
Stacy Davis    05 Oct 2014, 19:30
Thank you so much! All fixed!
Christa Wojo    19 Aug 2014, 18:56
Thanks! This was a quick fix for an annoying little problem I had today.
alana    18 Jun 2014, 22:44
this isnt working :(
Kat    27 Jan 2014, 12:27
Thanks. Knowing where the formatting is contained suddenly makes bullet point formatting make a lot more sense!

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