The Power in the Pilcrow

Photo of pilcrow pretzel by Windell Oskay used under CC BY-2.0 license.

The pilcrow has marked the end of a paragraph since long before there were computers. The little backwards ¶ today is found hiding in documents, storing vital format information, and marking paragraph breaks.

Reveal Pilcrows

In a Word document, click the ¶ on the Home ribbon and all the pilcrows will be revealed, along with other non-printing characters like spaces and tab marks.

If you’d rather see the pilcrows but not the spaces, tabs, and other marks, go instead to the View settings in Word’s Preferences on a Mac (Display, in a Windows environment). There, tick the option to show paragraph marks. That makes the pilcrows show on screen always.

Maintain Formatting

  • To maintain formatting of text when moving it, be sure to select the pilcrow at the end of the paragraph too.
  • One of the several ways to make paragraph formatting match is to delete the paragraph mark above a poorly formatted paragraph. Word will then apply the formatting from the previous paragraph.

Ditch Snafus

The final pilcrow at the end of a Word document stores a lot of information on the file: deleted text, formats used, and layout details for the whole document, among other specifics. That’s why some problem documents can be rescued by copying everything except the final paragraph mark into a new file.


Want to know more about the pilcrow as a typographic symbol? Here’s an article for you, with further reading suggestions.

book cover cropped to banner size
For more tips on viewing non-printing characters, start on p. 42 of the book.

cover of editing in word 2016 2nd edition
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