Fix Extra Line Spaces

pretzel shaped as a reverse P, the pilcrow paragraph mark

Extra line spaces in a manuscript create layout problems. Whether they were used to create paragraph spacing or start a new page, manual line spacing just isn’t the best practice. What works more elegantly in the workflow is setting the paragraph spacing and using manual page breaks. But first, get rid of those extra line breaks and hard returns!

Just like the extra spaces in last week’s post, there’s no reason to be hunting and destroying extra line spaces by eye, one at a time. With a simple find and replace, MS Word can rid the file of these unwanted artifacts with just a click (or two).

Easy Steps to Rid the Manuscript of Unneeded Line Spaces

  1. Open the Search (Navigation) panel and in the Find field, simply type ^p^p. That’s two special codes for a hard return. These can also be selected from the dropdown menu beside the find field.
  2. In the Replace field, type just one ^p.
  3. Click Replace All. Then click OK when Word brags about how many replacements it made.
  4. Keep clicking Replace All until Word tells you that zero replacements were made.


You may have to repeat this Find & Replace many times until Word reports that zero changes were made. You may even want to start by putting many more ^p in the Find field.

To see what kind of break was used, click the ¶ on the Home ribbon.

Sometimes the line breaks are made with “soft” returns, not “hard” ones. When you reveal the non-printing characters, soft returns look like this ⏎ instead of a pilcrow (¶). To find and replace those, type ^l in the Find field and a space in the Replace field. (Just click the space bar.) If this creates two spaces, the fix for that is just as easy.

Windows users will need to go into Advanced Find & Replace to select either Paragraph Mark for ^p or Manual Line Break for ^l from the dropdown list opened from the Special button.
Mac users can select either Paragraph Mark for ^p or Manual Line Break for ^l from the dropdown list arrow beside the Find field.
book cover cropped to banner size
For more tips on working with Find and Replace, start on p. 47 of the book.
cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition
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