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.

Stubborn Highlighting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 12, 2021)

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.

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. ...

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