“Where did that line come from (and how do I get rid of it)?”

Have you ever typed a few dashes in between paragraphs (as a placeholder or whatever), hit enter, and somehow wound up with a line all the way across the page that you can't get rid of, no matter how many times you hit the Delete key?

Infuriating, isn't it?  But I'm here to tell you: It's both fixable and preventable. (Yay!)


What you're experiencing is an autoformatted paragraph border.  Microsoft Word, by default, attempts to autoformat certain character sequences into their rich text equivalent.  Simple quotation marks become "smart quotes" (the curly kind), two dashes together become a single long dash, etc.

But when Word guesses wrong (as in the "line across the page" example), it can really screw your document up.  First, let's find out how to solve the problem when it crops up.

Fixing it after it happens

The line you're seeing across the page is a paragraph border that Word has automatically inserted using AutoFormat.  To get rid of it:

  1. Place your cursor into the paragraph immediately preceding the line.
  2. Go to Format, Borders and Shading (Word 2002-2003) or click the Border drop-down in the Paragraph section of the Home tab of the Ribbon (Word 2007-2010)
  3. Click None (or No Borders) to turn off all the borders.

Keeping it from happening again

If you don't want to have a line across the page every time you type a few dashes, you can re-configure AutoFormat accordingly:

  • Go to the File tab (versions 2010 and up) or or the Office Button in Word 2007, then go to Proofing (along the left-hand side) and click the AutoCorrect Options button on the right near the top.
  • Go to the AutoFormat As You Type tab (all versions).
  • The checkbox that controls this particular feature is found under Apply as you type (almost dead center - see it?).  Uncheck the Border lines checkbox (and any of these others that have been bedeviling you lately) and click OK.

Do a little test — open a new Word document, type three dashes and hit Enter.  If you don't see a line pop up all the way across the page, you've successfully disabled this [annoying] feature!

Share this tip!

About the Author

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

Leave a Reply 5 comments

David Reply

Thanks for this great tip!!

Saskia Reply

thank you so much. I was going crazy about these lines and they ruined a whole document. I was ready to type it over from scratch. But now they’re gone!

Configuring AutoFormat As You Type Reply

[…] the truly infuriating one?  Typing a few dashes together, hitting enter, and suddenly getting a solid line all the way across th… […]

Jill Diniz Reply

Thanks a bunch!

Andrew Reply

Fantastic solution! This has been aggravating me for weeks and finally a solution that worked immediately!
Thank you,
Andrew Sikorski

Leave a Reply: