How to Reveal Formatting Marks and Codes in Word

Go behind the scenes of your text to resolve formatting issues

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Microsoft Word has many features that format documents for optimal readability. These features include bullets, numbered lists, page breaks, margins, columns, and more. But things can get tricky when trying to make a document look a particular way. To see how Word structures the document, view the formatting marks and codes associated with the text. There are several ways to see these codes.

Instructions in this article apply to Word for Office 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, and Word 2013.

Temporarily Show Formatting Symbols

View the formatting Word uses in a document to fine-tune the way the document looks.

  1. To reveal the formatting symbols, go to the ribbon and select Home.

    Home menu in Word
  2. In the Paragraph group, select Show Formatting Symbols (the icon looks like a paragraph mark).

    Word with the Show All button highlighted
  3. The formatting symbols appear in the document and each symbol is represented by a specific mark:

    • Spaces display as dots.
    • Tabs are indicated with arrows.
    • The end of each paragraph is marked with a paragraph sign.
    • Page breaks display as dotted lines.
    MS Word document with formatting marks displayed
  4. To hide the formatting symbols, select Show Formatting Symbols.

Permanently Show Formatting Symbols

If you find that having the formatting symbols visible makes working with Word easier and you want to have them visible all the time, here's how:

  1. On the ribbon, select File.

    A Word document with the File menu highlighted
  2. Choose Options.

    Word with the Options button highlighted
  3. In the Word Options dialog box, select Display.

    Word options screen with the Display heading highlighted
  4. In the Always show these formatting marks on the screen section, select Show all formatting marks.

    Word options with the Show all formatting marks box highlighted
  5. Select OK to save your changes.

    Word options screen with the OK button highlighted

Display the Reveal Formatting Panel

To find more information about the formatting of a Word document, display the Reveal Formatting panel.

  1. Press Shift+F1 on the keyboard to display the Reveal Formatting panel.

    MS Word with Reveal Formatting panel displayed
  2. To view information about a portion of the document, select that text.

    MS Word with Reveal Formatting panel displayed
  3. In the Reveal Formatting panel, select a link to see detailed information about the formatting components and to make changes to the formatting.

    MS Word with Reveal Formatting panel and Style dialog box displayed
  4. To close the panel, select X.