How to Get Rid of Unwanted Horizontal Line in Word
Have you ever run into a situation in Microsoft Word where you somehow ended up with a horizontal line that you absolutely can’t delete? In this article I will show you what can cause this situation and what you can do to fix the problem. In my opinion, it’s one of the most irritating thing in Word that I have ever encountered. The fix is so easy even a cave man can do it…..as long as he’s comfortable with using a mouse and keyboard, of course.
On a blank line in Microsoft Word, you enter a series of underscores, perhaps to create a line like the one in the image below to separate the two paragraphs. As soon as you hit the Enter key, the disaster strikes because now you can’t delete the line. If you were to add a series of underscores on a line that has text (see third line), and then hit the Enter key, there wont’ be a problem. The problem is only experienced when you do this on a blank line (see 5th line). I typed a series of underscores and then pressed the Enter key, which created a bold line. If my cursor is above the thick line at the end of line 4, pressing the Enter key simply moves the horizontal line down.
If I create some space above and below the bold line, select the area above and below the line with my mouse and then delete the entire area, it sure will delete the line. Right? Wrong!
The bold line is practically invisible to Word and Word can’t delete what it can’t see. Don’t bother copying these paragraphs to a new Word document because you will be copying the problem to the new document.
You may also run into another challenge. Let’s say you delete all the text below the line (the second paragraph in the above image). You just created yet another serious problem for yourself. Now there is absolutely no way for you to go down below the line and add any text. Remember, the line behaves as if it were “invisible” to Word. Even if you select the area that contains the line, you just can’t delete it. It’s like Jason in the movie Friday the 13th, you just can’t kill him.
First let me explain what’s going on. If you type 3 of the following characters consecutively in a blank row, that doesn’t have any text, and then press the Enter key, Word creates a border around that paragraph.
- Tilde (~)
- Pound or hash sign (#)
- Asterisk (*)
- Underscore (_)
- Hyphen (-)
- Equal to sign (=)
In the image below, I typed each of the above characters 3 times, without a space between them, and hit the Enter key. You can see the results. After you hit the Enter key, you won’t see the 3 characters that you typed, you will only see the horizontal line that can’t be deleted. The horizontal line is actually a border created by Word at the bottom of the paragraph.
If you keep pressing the Enter key, you keep on creating a new paragraph that contains the border at the bottom of the paragraph.
What you’ve experienced is the default behavior in Word that you can change. The easiest way to get rid of it is to use the Ctrl+Q combination on your keyboard. Simply move your cursor anywhere in the paragraph above the line that you want to delete, and then use Ctrl+Q. For example, if you want to delete the line with the tildes, move your cursor somewhere in the line above the tildes, let’s say, at the beginning of the line before the first tilde (pronounced “till-duh” but sometimes called squiggle, or twiddle), then use Ctrl+Q to delete the line. It really doesn’t matter where you put the cursor above the horizontal line, as long as it’s within the paragraph. If you are not sure, just move it to the beginning of the line just above the line that you can’t delete so you can get rid of the border. Keep in mind, the horizontal line is a border at the bottom of the paragraph.
Alternate Method for Deleting the Border
Besides the Ctrl+Q method, which I find much easier to remember, you can also use the Word ribbon to delete the paragraph border. Depending on the version of Word you are using, the options might be slightly different. You basically need to go to the formatting area where you can remove the border at the bottom of the paragraph. The screenshots in this article are from Word 2016.
Word 2013 & Later: Home tab -> Paragraph section -> Border button -> No Border
In the previous image where I have all the different types of lines, if you want to delete all of them, simply select all the paragraphs and then use Ctrl+Q. All the paragraph borders will disappear but your text will stay in tact. If you are like me and don’t like this default behavior where Word adds borders at the bottom of the paragraph, you can go to File -> Options -> Proofing -> AutoCorrect Options -> AutoFormat As You Type -> and clear the box next to Border Lines.
While you are at it, review other settings on this tab. You may like some of them but want to change the default behavior of others. For example, I like the option under Replace as you type for Ordinals (1st) with superscript, but don’t like the default option for Hyphens (–) with dash (–). Poke around on the other tabs of AutoCorrect to see if there’s something else you don’t like. Whenever I install Microsoft Office, I have a series of tweaks that I do in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and other applications. Customizing the AutoCorrect is an essential part of my usual tweaks.
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