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The Line that Won't Go Away

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: The Line that Won't Go Away.

Word, by default, takes some liberties with what you type. One such liberty is the adding of borders to paragraphs based on what you type. For instance, if you type three underlines on a new line, and then press Enter, you get a solid line that extends the width of your document. This is not the only three characters that result in this type of replacement—characters for lines—but if you don't know the source of the line, it can be frustrating.

This feature of Word is controlled by following these steps:

  1. Choose AutoCorrect from the Tools menu. (Choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu if you are using Word 2002 or Word 2003.) Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  2. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  4. Note the Borders checkbox. (In Word 2002 and Word 2003 it is called the Border Lines checkbox.) If cleared, Word does not automatically create lines; if it is selected, Word will behave as described earlier in this tip. Set the checkbox as desired.
  5. Click on OK.

Now that you know what causes the lines, you may be wondering how to get rid of them once they are in your document.

As with any AutoFormat that is applied by Word, you can undo the change by pressing Ctrl+Z right after the change is made. For instance, if you press three underlines and then Enter, Word changes the underlines to a line. You can undo this by immediately pressing Ctrl+Z.

If you later want to delete the line, there are two things you can do that will help you. First, remember that the "line" added by Word is really a paragraph border; it is not a real line. Second, you need to display Word's non-printing characters. (You do this by clicking on the Show/Hide tool on the toolbar, or by choosing Tools | Options | View tab, and clicking on All.)

Now you are ready to get rid of the lines. Start by positioning the insertion point at the beginning of the paragraph that has the border and pressing Ctrl+Q. This resets the paragraph's formatting back to its default, which usually does not include the border. If this does not do what you want, you can always select the entire paragraph that contains the border and simply delete it.

There is something else to remember when getting rid of borders created by AutoFormat: They can affect multiple paragraphs. For instance, consider the following scenario, which you can try in a document:

  1. On a blank line, enter three underlines and press Enter. Word converts them to a border underneath the paragraph.
  2. Press the Up Arrow once. This should place the insertion point at the beginning of the paragraph that now has the underline.
  3. Press Enter two times. It appears as if you have moved the underline down two lines, since the insertion point is still at the beginning of the paragraph that has the underline.
  4. Press Ctrl+Q. The underline appears to not go away, but jumps up a line.

Why did this happen? The reason is quite simple. Since the "line" is really a paragraph border, it appears at the bottom of the last paragraph that has that format. When you pressed Enter twice, in step 3, you ended up with three paragraphs, each formatted with a border underneath. However, Word only displays the border of the last paragraph formatted with that border, even though all three have it. (Word translates the border as one that appears under the group of like-formatted paragraphs, not one that appears under each individual paragraph.) When you performed step 4, the border was removed from the last of the three paragraphs, but it still remained on the other two. Thus, the border appeared to "jump up" a line. All that really happened was that Word dutifully displayed the bottom border on the last paragraph with that format, which now happens to be the second of the original three paragraphs.

To get rid of the border on all the paragraphs, you need to select all the paragraphs and press Ctrl+Q. If you don't want to do this (perhaps you don't want to remove some other explicit paragraph formatting you have), you can follow these steps:

  1. Select all the paragraphs in your document by pressing Ctrl+A.
  2. Choose Borders and Shading from the Format menu. Word displays the Borders and Shading dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Borders tab is selected. (See Figure 2.)
  4. Figure 2. The Borders tab of the Borders and Shading dialog box.

  5. Click on the None setting.
  6. Click on OK.

These steps remove all borders from all paragraphs and tables within the document. If there are some borders you really want to keep, then you should simply modify step 1 so that you select only those paragraphs that have borders you want to get rid of.

For more information on getting rid of stubborn lines that Word automatically adds to your document, see the following page at the Word MVP site:

http://word.mvps.org/FAQs/Formatting/CantGetRidOfLine.htm

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1918) 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: The Line that Won't Go Away.

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Comments for this tip:

Matt    09 Sep 2014, 14:38
Thanks for this. This one had me stumped.
KC    30 May 2014, 15:02
THANK YOU!!!
Lillie    28 May 2014, 09:15
It works swell!! (think Lady & the Tramp) Thanks!
Jean     21 May 2014, 02:49
It did not work for me. It just moves the line down -- it does not get rid of it. I need help!
Alexandra    28 Apr 2014, 09:03
Excellent Help - thankyou!
Kevin    02 Apr 2014, 15:26
My Word 2003 starts all new documents with an underscore mark. How do I get rid of this?
jmelnich    15 Feb 2013, 12:47
Thank you so much, Allen. The Control Q function fixed what was a very frustrating headache.

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