Fix one of MS Word’s most annoying problems

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Mostly, Word works well. I’ve used it for many years and been pretty happy with it. But ever since I first started using it, there has been this one thing that has driven me nuts until I learned how to fix it.

Microsoft Word


What happens is this. I’ll be typing along in MS Word, everything seems to be working fine, no problem. Then I decide I need to have some kind of small divider in between a couple of paragraphs. Nothing big, just a few dashes to separate those paragraphs.

So I hit Enter to go to a new line, and I hit the old “hyphen” key 3 or 4 times, and I hit Enter again to start the next paragraph.

But when I look up and see what’s on the screen, what is there is definitely NOT what I typed. Instead of the 4 “dashes” to separate those two paragraphs, there’s a solid line all the way across the document – from the left margin to the right margin. How in the world did that happen?? I know for sure I didn’t type it that way (you don’t plan to type the hyphen key 3 or 4 times and “accidentally” hit it 50 times!).

Here’s what has happened: Microsoft Word is trying to give you what it THINKS you want (a solid line). Why it would think that, I can’t really tell you. But the odd thing is, that thing that looks like just a regular line is not really a line at all. Or I should say, Word doesn’t picture it as a standard “line”. To verify this, go up to that line and try to highlight it so you can delete it. Or try putting your cursor at the end of the line, so you can backspace and delete it. You can’t. Although, if you hit backspace immediately after that line appears on the page, you can get rid of it – but that doesn’t keep it from happening again in the future

In order to understand how to get rid of that thing, you have to know what Word thinks it is: a border.


I know, it doesn’t really make any sense. But that’s the way it is. We just have to work around it.

So when you find yourself with that long, silly line in the middle of the page that you don’t want, put your cursor on the line ABOVE that long line, then find the Paragraph section in the ribbon above and click the drop-down menu in the “Borders” icon:

MS Word problem


When you choose “No borders” that line disappears. So your problem is solved – but only for this specific Word document. Next time you type those 3 dashes on a line again, the same thing is going to happen. Chances are you don’t really want to have this happening all the time.

Fortunately, you can change your preferences in Word so that this doesn’t happen again. To do that, click File – Options – Proofing and click on the button called “AutoCorrect Options”. In the new window, click the tab called “AutoFormat as you type” and UN-check the box next to “Border lines”, then click Ok:

MS Word problems


The steps I just listed above are based on Word 2016. If you have a previous version, your steps might be somewhat different, but if you can at least get to the “AutoCorrect” options you should be able to figure it out from there.

What’s kind of ironic is that Word sets it up to do that document-wide line by default, and has done it that way for years. The idea is that it’s trying to predict what you want and be helpful by providing it immediately and saving you time. The irony is that this “time saver” that’s built into Word has been an annoyance for a very long time for lots of people, and you end up wasting time just trying to figure out how to fix it. Now you know how!

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Joseph Horwitz
July 11th, 2016

After the line appears, I hit Control – Z, and the line disappears.
But I like the line separation

July 12th, 2016

Scott, great post. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!