Stubborn Phantom Paragraphs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 11, 2014)

Mary is working, in Word, with documents that were first created in WordPerfect. She is able to perform a good conversion of the documents to Word, with one big exception: One document appears to have a "phantom" character that causes bizarre behavior.

If Mary tries to combine two paragraphs by deleting a paragraph mark, although the new, combined paragraph appears to be one paragraph, it behaves like two paragraphs. If she triple clicks in the first half of the new paragraph, the only thing that gets selected is what used to be the first paragraph. If she triple click in the second half, it selects only what used to be the second paragraph. The code even survives in the document if she saves it as text and reloads it.

Unfortunately, the conversion filters that move documents from WordPerfect to Word don't always do a flawless job. Sometimes there are "artifacts" left in the converted document—character codes that can cause problems in Word. One WordTips subscriber suggested the macro at the following location as one that can help to clean up extraneous character codes in converted files:

http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/wptoword.html#macroword

The cleanest way to do a conversion, unfortunately, is the one that can cause the most work later on. Mary indicated that she saved the document as a text document, but that the extraneous character remained. It may not help to save the document as a text document in Word. It is better to open a Notepad window, and paste the text into it. You can then copy the text back into Word, and hopefully the extra character codes will be gone.

Another possible solution is to use Overtype mode to "over write" the control character. Turn on Overtype (press the Insert key; OVR shows up in the status bar), and then retype the words just before and after the assumed location of the text character. With each character you type, an existing character is "eaten" and replaced. This should also include any invisible control characters.

If that doesn't work, then the only solution is to try to uncover what the hidden character code is. The best way to do this is with some sort of programmer's editor, such as UltraEdit. When you open the text file in the editor, it will show you everything in the file, including any hidden codes. They can then be easily deleted and the file placed back into a Word document.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5597) 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. ...

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