Last Updated on October 22, 2022 by Dave Farquhar
I ran into a problem with Word line wrap not working. Even though the text had spaces in them, Word was treating some of the spaces from my copy and pasted text like they weren’t spaces.
When line wrap doesn’t work how you expect in Word, it’s usually nonbreaking spaces or other special characters in the text. The obscure show formatting button can help you find them.
I don’t know if it made a difference, but I was using Microsoft Word on a PC, and I was pasting in text that someone else had written on a Mac. But mixing and matching text from different sources is something we all have to do sometimes. The problem I found was a simple difference in formatting. But I had to use a really obscure feature to find and fix the problem.
My messed up text looked something like this. Note how the text seems to be ignoring some spaces. Word is treating the phrase “prohibiting the” like a single word.
The obscure solution
There’s a button on Word’s ribbon, in the section marked Paragraph, that looks like a paragraph marker. Click that button to show the formatting codes. This isn’t quite like the reveal codes in WordPerfect, but it’s the closest thing it has. It’s easy to ignore because so many people have never needed to use it.
And it was certainly enough to find and fix my problem. There were nonbreaking spaces hiding in my text.
Here’s what the text looked like after clicking that button.
See how some of the spaces look different now? The ones represented by an open circle? The fix is to just replace the weird spaces with the regular space. You can use find/replace, or if it’s not a lot of them, just use the space bar to replace any of the weird spaces. Then click the button again to return to the normal view you’re used to using.
And that’s the quick fix for Word line wrap not working. In extreme cases you may want to use Notepad++ to clean out problem characters, but I was able to fix this case directly in Word.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.