Making lines in Word and stopping them!


Office for Mere Mortals
Your beginners guide to the secrets of Microsoft Office
Invalid email address
Tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook from Microsoft Office experts.  Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office for Mere Mortals has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy

For a long time, Word has a set of Autoformat shortcuts to make horizontal lines, here’s how they work, how to change them and how to stop them when out of control.

Line shortcuts

There are six horizontal line shortcuts.  For each one type the same character three times at the start of a new line then press Enter.

For example, press the dash key three times on a new line, then enter.

making lines in word and stopping them 7952 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

Dashes give you a horizontal line

Underscores give you a bold horizontal line

Equals gives you a double horizontal line

making lines in word and stopping them 7954 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

And there’s more …

The three above are the best known but there are others.

Asterisk makes a dotted line

Tilde makes a wavy line

Pound/Hash makes a triple line

making lines in word and stopping them 7955 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

Tooltip controls

Whenever you automatically make a line, a small tooltip appears with some options.

making lines in word and stopping them 7956 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

Undo Border Line – changes back to the characters you typed.  The usual undo shortcut, Ctrl + Z, will do the same thing.

Stop Automatically Creating Border Lines – will turn off the AutoFormat |  Border Lines option entirely.

Control AutoFormat Options … goes to the settings for AutoFormat as you type.

Autoformat Options

The automatic lines and all other AutoFormat options are controlled from Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect options | AutoFormat As You Type:

making lines in word and stopping them 7957 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

Border lines can be turned on/off from there.  There are no options to select just some character/line combinations – it’s all or nothing.

Under the hood

Word isn’t making the lines by adding a lot more characters across the page.  That’s where confusion can begin if you’re trying to stop the lines appearing.

It’s converting your dash/underscore/equals etc. into a paragraph border. Specifically, a bottom border line on the paragraph.

For example, here’s how an automatic double horizontal line appears in Paragraph | Borders and Shading

making lines in word and stopping them 7958 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

It’s just the double line style applied to the bottom line of the paragraph.  Strictly, at the bottom of group of paragraphs with the same formatting. Knowing that detail is useful when you’re fixing the extra lines that start appearing.

Color

The automatic lines are always black (actually ‘Automatic’).  Word doesn’t pick up the color of the three characters nor the paragraph as you might expect.

To change the line color, select the line then go to Home | Paragraph | Borders | Borders and Shading.  Select the color you want from the pull-down list and then click on the borders you want the color change to apply.

making lines in word and stopping them 7959 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

Other lines

You’re not limited to the lines that Microsoft provides via AutoCorrect.  You can add your own or change the look of a line added with AutoCorrect.

Select the line then go to Home | Paragraph | Borders | Borders and Shading.  That opens up the many options you have:

Styles:  there are over 20 line styles to choose from.

Color:  as mentioned above, the full Word color range is available.

Width:  thin, medium or thick – take your pick from ¼ point to 6pt.

Top, bottom, left, right – click in the preview box to choose which lines to show and the style of each one.

Whatever you choose, remember to click on the line/s in the preview box to apply the look you want.

For consistency, you can have a horizontal line as part of a paragraph style.  For example, a line above or below a heading.

Unwanted horizontal lines

A common problem with the automatic lines is extra lines appearing where you don’t want them.

It happens when you add paragraphs immediately above the horizontal line.  Each of those paragraphs inherits the same (bottom border) formatting that Word made for the horizontal line.

You won’t see a line under each paragraph because Word groups together paras with the same formatting.  Only the last paragraph of a group will have a bottom border line.

The problem usually rises because people try to fix the extra lines by selecting just the paragraphs showing horizontal line and change the formatting.

That doesn’t change the ‘bottom border’ formatting for other lines that have the setting.  So it seems like extra lines keep popping up without reason!

making lines in word and stopping them 7960 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

The solution is to make sure you select all the affected paragraphs – not just the ones with horizontal lines.

Choose a paragraph and look carefully at the Home | Paragraph | Borders icon.  That icon changes according to the current border settings.  In this, enlarged, example you can see the bottom line is solid.

making lines in word and stopping them 7961 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

To change the border setting, pull-down the borders list and choose ‘No Border’.
making lines in word and stopping them 7962 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!

To stop the creeping lines in the first place, get into the habit of not adding extra paragraphs from the horizontal line itself.  Instead, go to the paragraph ABOVE the horizontal line and add new paras from there.

subs profile e1563205311409 - Making lines in Word and stopping them!
Latest news & secrets of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office experts give you tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office Watch has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy
Invalid email address