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 August 17, 2018)


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. ...


Wrong Suggested Date

When you start to type a date into a document, Word helpfully suggests a full date that you can accept. The result is ...

Discover More

Inserting a File Name without an Extension

Sometimes you might like to insert a file name into your document without including the file extension. The FILENAME ...

Discover More

Making Banners in Word

Word can be used for printing a variety of document types. You may want to use the program to print a festive banner for ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (menu)

Converting Automatic Numbering to Manual Numbering

The automatic numbering that Word lets you apply to paragraphs in your document can create some great looking content, ...

Discover More

Lining Up Numbered List Numbers

Do you want the numbers in your numbered lists to be aligned differently than they normally are? You can adjust the ...

Discover More

Converting Lists to Text

If you have a numbered list in a document, you might want to convert it to regular, non-dynamic text and not lose the ...

Discover More

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

View most recent newsletter.


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 nine more than 2?

2021-02-02 10:04:33


Worked like a charm~ thank you!

2020-08-20 18:25:06

Margie B.

Mr. Wyatt, you're worth your weight in gold! Couldn't figure it out and you provided the answer. You always save me batches of time. Loved your Master Styles and Templates course. You're a great instructor and storehouse of knowledge. Many thanks for your Tips on Word. Priceless.

2020-03-11 12:38:18


Thank you for this helpful tip! I was going a little "nutty" trying to figure it out. I just signed up for your emails!

2019-12-20 16:17:22

Kace Carson

Thanks a ton Mr. Wyatt! You just made life a lot simpler for me. Ctr+Q, Ctr + Spacebar... who would have known? Thanks !

2018-12-07 08:32:54

B Straughn

Thank you, Allen for the article. You save me a lot of time by following your instructions to remove stubborn highlighting.

2018-07-09 17:47:37


Have struggle for a while with "Stubborn Highlighting," but Ctrl+Space Bar did the trick. Thanks, and God bless.

2018-01-05 21:20:33


I hadn't realized I was in "Simple Markup" view of Track Changes. Changing "Simple Markup" to "No Markup" took away the highlighting I was seeing.

2017-10-02 01:03:25

Aaron Elliott

Thank you !!!! :))))))

2017-02-16 11:37:13

James Roberts

Andrew Barrett had the best suggestion by far.. kudos and thanks

2017-02-08 16:23:57

Angie Schmeckebier

I have weird highlighting on numbered items. I tried both your tips and they didn't work. I also tried to make sure there wasn't any border shading. I also used the highlighter to remove, but it didn't work. I can go up to a number that isn't highlighted, hit return and it will automatically start highlighting. I've tried every tip on every website I've found and can't find one that works.

2017-01-26 11:48:27


Great tip thanks, couldn't find any help from MS for this issue

2016-10-27 17:01:46

Crystal Geng

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

2016-08-14 12:17:09


Thank you for that simple yet effective tip!

2016-07-26 20:16:38


Stubborn highlighting: Control + space bar did the trick - thank you!

2016-04-07 07:03:24


Control + space bar worked when nothing else did to remove yellow highlighting - brilliant tip.

2016-03-02 19:10:48


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!

2016-02-19 11:50:04


This was a great tip! Helped me solve a very stubborn highlighting issue. Thank you so much!

2016-02-14 08:15:44


Removing the paragraph mark at the end of the paragraph and then pressing enter worked perfectly. Thanks!

2016-01-13 13:00:12

Dr. Mary Cerreto

You wouldn't believe how many YEARS I have suffered with this. Thank you so much!

2016-01-12 09:43:49


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.

2015-11-23 06:30:35


Your advice, once again, is without flaw! Thank you thank you!!

2015-11-16 16:41:08


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 thx

2015-09-26 23:39:00

Stephen Gray

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?

2015-08-28 18:47:46


Thank you ad infinitum for the tip on removing that stubborn highlighting!!

2015-08-06 01:06:38


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.

2015-07-13 06:33:07


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

2015-06-10 08:07:32

dinesh patel

very nice tip. thank you very much Mr.Allen

2015-06-05 14:04:34

Andrew Barrett

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.

2015-04-30 16:00:31


Those tips did not help me but I typed CTRL + A and selected none in the highlighting and it went away.

2015-04-29 10:29:05


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.

2015-04-23 20:53:19

Paul Wilson

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.

2015-04-22 13:46:11


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.

2015-02-27 14:02:47


Thank goodness for this site.

2015-01-20 18:04:03

Nate O

Thanks! Worked like a charm. Super helpful.

2014-10-22 22:34:40

Marty Mouse

Your a legend this works for word 2010 as explained.
I wasted a lot of time before I found this answer.

2014-10-05 19:30:16

Stacy Davis

Thank you so much! All fixed!

2014-08-19 18:56:54

Christa Wojo

Thanks! This was a quick fix for an annoying little problem I had today.

2014-06-18 22:44:46


this isnt working :(

2014-01-27 12:27:15


Thanks. Knowing where the formatting is contained suddenly makes bullet point formatting make a lot more sense!

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

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.