Understanding Hard and Soft Returns

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 7, 2018)

7

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

TOC Heading Numbers Always Show in Bold

Linda's got a document that includes a table of contents that is based on headings in the document. When the headings ...

Discover More

Creating a Custom Power Management Plan

Don't like the built-in power management plans that Windows provides? You can create your own to better fit your power needs.

Discover More

Leap Years and Fiscal Periods

Need to figure out when a fiscal year ends when that period does not correspond to the calendar year? Here are some ways ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (menu)

Capitalizing the First Letter after a Colon

There are many rules in English grammar (and many exceptions to those rules.) One common rule of grammar is to capitalize ...

Discover More

Generating a List of Dates

When creating tracking documents in Word, you may need to come up with a series of dates in the document. You can type ...

Discover More

Transposing Two Characters

If you have two characters in the wrong order, you might be interested in a shortcut you can use to switch their order. ...

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 nine more than 8?

2021-08-17 03:41:10

AG

Thank you. this was really helpful


2021-02-06 17:59:22

John Mann

William
Use Find/Replace. In the Find/Replace dialogue box, click into find the Find What section
Go to the Special button at the bottom, and click
From the list, select "Manual Line Break"
Leave the "Replace with' box blank, will simply remove the new-line.
You could, if necesary, replace with a space.

If you want a new paragaph at that spot
Click the "Replace with" Box, then again the Special button
The top of the list is "Paragraph Mark", which will replace the line break with a new paragraph.

You could experiment with other selections. Once you have the appropriate settings, use Replace All.

Hope that helps.


2020-09-19 07:34:04

William WALLACE

When I reformat some documents received electronically I notice breaks in mid sentence (or mid line) which I presume are soft returns in the original document. Removing these by Space + Delete is very tedious; how can I quickly remove all such soft returns/line breaks?

Any advice will be most welcome.

Geordie Lad


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.