Formatting marks

Updated: 05/01/2023 by Computer Hope
Formatting marks

Alternatively called editing marks, formatting marks are special marks hidden by default that affect how text is displayed in a document. For example, with formatting marks enabled soft and hard returns are visible (shown right). In this example, the soft returns look like arrows pointing left and the hard returns is a paragraph mark, which looks like a backwards 'P'.

Why are formatting marks used?

Formatting marks help troubleshoot a document's layout, appearance, and any printing problems and can be enabled or disabled depending on your preference.

Enabling or disabling formatting marks


With Microsoft programs that support formatting marks press Ctrl+* (Ctrl+Shift+8) keyboard shortcut to enable and disable formatting marks.

Formatting mark icon

The formatting marks feature can also be enabled or disabled by clicking the paragraph symbol in the toolbar, as shown in the picture. If the formatting marks button is not visible in your toolbar, you can change this setting. Check the View drop-down menu (Microsoft Word 2003 and earlier) or the Home tab (Microsoft Word 2007 and later) for an option to display the formatting marks button.

Types of formatting marks

Below, lists different formatting marks you'll see when enabled with a brief description.

Conditional hyphen

Conditional hyphenAny hyphen not entered manually entered is shown as a conditional hyphen mark. These look like a dash with a small line extending down on the right side (shown left).

Field code

Field codeA field code is a command or code that instructs Microsoft Word to insert special items, such as the current date, current page number, or custom graphics. For example, to display the updated current date in a document, use the {date} field code.

To create a new field code, press Ctrl+F9, and to toggle the display of field codes, press Alt+F9. If a document has any fields codes they can be identified by text within curly brackets.


Use the shortcut Alt+Shift+D to insert the date and Alt+Shift+T to insert the time.

Line breaks

Line breakA line break is a break in the current line of text that doesn't create a new paragraph and is often done using the shortcut Shift+Enter. The image to the left shows that the line break resembles a symbol of an arrow pointing down and to the left. The same symbol is found on the Enter key on many computer keyboards.

Pagination breaks

A page break that is inserted manually into the document is shown when formatting marks are enabled. Below, is a picture and an example of a page break mark. There is also a column and section break. To delete pagination breaks, move your cursor in front of the page break mark and press the Del.

Pagination break

Paragraph marks

Paragraph MarkThe paragraph mark or pilcrow follows any new paragraph in a document. By default, when pressing the Enter, Microsoft Word and most other programs create a new paragraph. The paragraph continues until Enter is pressed again. To drop down a line, but not end a paragraph, press Shift+Enter to create a line break in the paragraph.

Space character

Space characterThe space character is the most common formatting marks and is represented as a single dot in place of each space in a document. These marks help with identifying two spaces instead of one and a tab created using spaces instead of a tab. The picture to the left is an example of a single space between the 'A' and 'B' characters.

Hard space formatting mark in Microsoft Word vs. normal space.

A hard space is shown as a small superscript "o," which is illustrated to the right.


Tab iconAny tab in a document will be represented by an arrow pointing to the right (tab marker), as shown in the picture. If there are multiple tabs, you'll have multiple arrows. If spaces are instead of a tab to format the text, you'll see the space characters, mentioned above.

End mark, Hard return, Paragraph, Soft return, Word processor terms