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Find and eliminate double non-printing characters

In a Word document, few circumstances call for “double formatting” like double spaces, double paragraph breaks and double page breaks. And quite often, those “doubles” foil attempts at automating a Word document’s formatting.

If your document is short, finding and fixing doubles doesn’t take long. If your document is long, however, you’ll need a little help. Use Word’s Find and Replace tool instead.

Finding and replacing double spaces with single spaces is as easy as typing two spaces in the “Find what” field and one space in the “Replace with” field. If you know the codes for formatting marks like paragraph and page breaks, you can type them in these fields as well.

If you don’t know the codes, follow these steps.

  1. Open the Find and Replace dialog from the menu, toolbar or ribbon.
  2. In the Find and Replace dialog, make sure you’re using the Replace tab (not the Find or Go To tabs).
    Microsoft Word - Find and Replace dialog
  3. In the bottom left corner of the dialog, click the arrow. The dialog expands to offer more options.
    Microsoft Word - Find and Replace dialog - more options
  4. With the Find what field active, go to the bottom of the expanded dialog, click the Special drop list and choose Paragraph Mark. Word inserts the ^p symbol in the Find what field.
  5. If you can find the “^” character on your keyboard, type another ^p in the Find what field, then type ^p in the Replace with field. (No “^”? Use the drop list again.) The dialog should look like this.
    Microsoft Word - Find and Replace paragraph breaks
  6. You can now click Find Next to find instances of double page breaks. You can also click Replace All to have Word swap out all double breaks with single breaks.
  7. Repeat this process until Word no longer finds any instances of double paragraph breaks. Reason: many documents contain triple and quadruple (and more) paragraph breaks, which leave double breaks after the first find and replace operation.


If yours is a long document containing only two or three pages that you choose to leave with non-standard formatting  (e.g. “legal” pages up front), using the Replace All button and fixing the non-standard pages later might be quicker than using the Find Next-Replace two-step repeatedly throughout your document.