Understanding Hard and Soft Returns

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 7, 2018)

4

When you use a typewriter, you press the Return, or Enter, key at the end of each line. This signifies you are done with one line and ready to begin the next. In Word, however, you do not have to do this. When you set up your page margins, Word is programmed to know that when you reach the right margin your text should automatically wrap to the next line.

There may be times, however, when you want to end a line before you get to the right margin. In these instances, you can end a line in either of two ways. The first way is to press the Enter key where you want the line to end. This results in a hard return being entered in the document. This action (pressing Enter) indicates that you have reached the end of the paragraph and want to start a new one.

The other way to end a line is to press Shift+Enter; this results in a soft return, sometimes called a line break or a newline character, being entered in the document. Hard returns are used to signify the end of a paragraph, whereas soft returns simply signify the end of a line.

If you have changed your view options so you can see all nonprinting characters, then a hard return appears on your screen as a paragraph mark (a backwards P), and a soft return appears as a down-and-left pointing arrow.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (170) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Changing the Orientation of Your Chart

Microsoft Graph is a great way to add simple charts to your documents. Once you've got a graph added, you might want to ...

Discover More

Inserting Different Dashes

Excel supports several types of dashes. This tip describes those different types and explains how to enter them in a cell.

Discover More

Including Headers and Footers when Selecting All

If you are creating a macro that, in the course of processing your document, needs to update all the fields in the ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (menu)

Understanding the Big Three Autos in Word

Three of the tools provided in Word are AutoText, AutoCorrect, and AutoComplete. It is easy to confuse what these tools ...

Discover More

Line Breaks After a Slash

Some writers use the slash to combine words and as shorthand to signify "or" or "and." This, of course, makes for some ...

Discover More

Using Optional Hyphens

Adding hyphens to your document can affect the way in which Word wraps text from one line to the next. Optional hyphens, ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 1 + 3?

2019-01-31 11:40:13

Behdad

Hello. I have a question. I have Office 2013. in my Word, Shift-Enter regularly works; but it does not work in the footnote only in a specific file, while it works everywhere on any other file both in the text and in the footnote.
Thanks you for your reply.


2018-10-16 14:03:32

Brian Schwartz

Shift-Enter is how you do soft line breaks in MS Word on the Mac.


2018-08-21 00:13:31

Stan Hadley

How about in Word for Mac 2016? Shift+Return nor Shift+Enter create a soft return. I cannot find a way to make one on the Mac, but they do show up when opening a Word for Windows document.


2018-06-06 05:31:50

boolion

another excellent (though somewhat obscure) tip. thank you, sir
i'm working on a document with a required format that Table X and its description go on separate lines, but the 'Table' style inserts a large space between paragraphs.
obviously (now, thanks to your blog), what is required is a 'soft 'enter'.
my workaround: turn on 'formatting marks' and copy paste the 'soft enter' symbol.
to be sure, 'shift enter' is much easier


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.